Portal:Supreme Court of the United States/Selected biography

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Selected biographies list[edit]

Portal:Supreme Court of the United States/Selected biography/1

Antonin Scalia

Antonin Scalia (born 1936) is an American jurist who serves as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. He is currently the second most senior Associate Justice, following Justice John Paul Stevens. In 1982, he was appointed as a judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit by President Ronald Reagan. In 1986, Judge Scalia was appointed by Reagan to the Supreme Court to fill the seat as associate justice vacated when Justice William Rehnquist was elevated to Chief Justice. While Rehnquist's confirmation was contentious, Scalia was asked few difficult questions by the Senate Judiciary Committee, and faced no opposition. Scalia was unanimously confirmed by the Senate, and took the bench on September 26, 1986. In his near quarter-century on the Court, Justice Scalia has staked out a conservative ideology in his opinions, advocating textualism in statutory interpretation and originalism in constitutional interpretation. He is a strong defender of the powers of the executive branch, believing presidential power should be paramount in many areas. He opposes affirmative action and other policies that treat minorities as groups. He files separate opinions in large numbers of cases, and, in his minority opinions, often castigates the Court's majority in scathing language.

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Sherman Minton

Sherman "Shay" Minton (1890 –1965) was a Democratic United States Senator from Indiana and an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. He was the most educated justice during his time on the Supreme Court; he attended Indiana University, Yale and the Sorbonne. He had served as a captain in World War I, then launched a legal and political career. In 1930, after three two failed election attempts, he became a utility commissioner the administration of Indiana Governor Paul V. McNutt. In 1934, Minton won election to the United States Senate. During the campaign, he defended New Deal legislation in a series of addresses in which he suggested it was not necessary to uphold the Constitution during the Great Depression crisis. Minton's campaign was denounced by his political opponents, and he received more widespread criticism for an address that became known as the "You Cannot Eat the Constitution" speech. As part of the New Deal Coalition, the fiercely partisan Minton championed President Franklin D. Roosevelt's unsuccessful court packing plans in the Senate and became one of his top Senate allies. After Minton failed in his 1940 Senate re-election bid, Roosevelt appointed him as a judge to the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. After Roosevelt's death, President Harry Truman, who had developed a close friendship with Minton during their time together in the Senate, nominated him to the Supreme Court, where he served for seven years. An advocate of judicial restraint, Minton was a regular supporter of the majority opinions during his early years on the Court; he became a regular dissenter after President Dwight Eisenhower's appointees altered the Bench's composition. In 1956, poor health forced Minton's retirement, after which he traveled and lectured until his death in 1965.

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Hugo Black

Hugo LaFayette Black (1886 – 1971) was an American politician and jurist. A member of the Democratic Party, Black represented Alabama in the United States Senate from 1927 to 1937, and served as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from 1937 to 1971. Black was nominated to the Supreme Court by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and confirmed by the Senate by a vote of 63 to 13. He was first of nine Roosevelt nominees to the Court, and outlasted all except for William O. Douglas. Black is widely regarded as one of the most influential Supreme Court justices in the 20th century. The fifth longest-serving justice in Supreme Court history, Black is noted for his advocacy of a textualist reading of the United States Constitution and of the position that the liberties guaranteed in the Bill of Rights were imposed on the states ("incorporated") by the Fourteenth Amendment. During his political career, Black was regarded as a staunch supporter of liberal policies and civil liberties. However, Black consistently opposed the doctrine of substantive due process (the anti-New Deal Supreme Court cited this concept in such a way as to make it impossible for the government to enact legislation that interfered with the freedom of business owners) and believed that there was no basis in the words of the Constitution for a right to privacy, voting against finding one in Griswold v. Connecticut. Black also endorsed Roosevelt in both the 1932 and 1936 US Presidential elections and was a staunch supporter of the New Deal.

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John Paul Stevens

John Paul Stevens (born 1920) served as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from December 19, 1975 until his retirement on June 29, 2010. At the time of his retirement, he was the oldest member of the Court and the third-longest serving justice in the Court's history. He was nominated by President Gerald Ford to replace the Court's longest serving justice, William O. Douglas. Stevens is widely considered to have been on the liberal side of the Court. Ford praised Stevens in 2005: "He is serving his nation well, with dignity, intellect and without partisan political concerns." Asked in an interview in September 2007 if he still considers himself a Republican, Stevens declined to comment. Justice Stevens served with three Chief Justices (Warren E. Burger, William Rehnquist, and John G. Roberts). On May 10, 2010, President Barack Obama nominated Solicitor General Elena Kagan to succeed Stevens.

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Stephen Breyer

Stephen Gerald Breyer (born 1938) is an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Appointed by Democratic President Bill Clinton in 1994, and known for his pragmatic approach to constitutional law, Breyer is generally associated with the more liberal side of the Court. Following a clerkship with Supreme Court Associate Justice Arthur Goldberg in 1964, Breyer became well-known as a law professor and lecturer at Harvard Law School starting in 1967. There he specialized in the area of administrative law, writing a number of influential text books that remain in use today. He held other prominent positions before being nominated for the Supreme Court, including special assistant to the United States Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust, and assistant special prosecutor on the Watergate Special Prosecution Force in 1973. In his 2005 book Active Liberty, Breyer made his first attempt to systematically lay out his views on legal theory, arguing that the judiciary should seek to resolve issues to encourage popular participation in governmental decisions.

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William Howard Taft

William Howard Taft (1857 – 1930) was the 27th President of the United States (1909–1913) and later the tenth Chief Justice of the United States (1921–1930). He is the only person to have served in both offices. Born in 1857 in Cincinnati, Ohio, into the powerful Taft family, "Big Bill" graduated from Yale College Phi Beta Kappa in 1878, and from Cincinnati Law School in 1880. He worked in a number of local non-descript legal positions until he was tapped to serve on the Ohio Supreme Court in 1887. In 1890, Taft was appointed Solicitor General of the United States and in 1891 a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. In 1900, President William McKinley appointed Taft Governor-General of the Philippines. In 1904, President Theodore Roosevelt appointed Taft Secretary of War with the hope that he might groom Taft, his then close political ally, into his hand-picked presidential successor. Riding a wave of popular support of President (and fellow Republican) Theodore Roosevelt, Taft won an easy victory in his 1908 bid for the presidency. Taft often alienated his own key constituencies, and was overwhelmingly defeated in his bid for a second term in the presidential election of 1912. In 1921, after the First World War, President Warren G. Harding appointed Taft Chief Justice of the United States. Taft served in this capacity until shortly before his death in 1930. As such, he is the only former President to administer the oath of office to another President, and the only Chief Justice to serve with associate justices whom he himself had earlier appointed to the court.

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John Marshall Harlan II

John Marshall Harlan (1899–1971) was an American jurist who served as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court from 1955 to 1971. His namesake was his grandfather John Marshall Harlan, another associate justice who served from 1877 to 1911. Harlan was a student at Upper Canada College and Appleby College and then at Princeton University. He continued his education at Balliol College, Oxford. Upon his return to the U.S. in 1923 Harlan worked in the law firm of Root, Clark, Buckner & Howland while studying at New York Law School. Later he served as Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York and as Special Assistant Attorney General of New York. In 1954 Harlan was appointed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, and a year later president Dwight Eisenhower nominated Harlan to the United States Supreme Court following the death of Justice Robert H. Jackson. Harlan is often characterized as a member of the conservative wing of the Warren Court. Justice Harlan was gravely ill when he retired from the Supreme Court on September 23, 1971. He died from spinal cancer three months later, on December 29, 1971. After Harlan's retirement, President Nixon appointed William Rehnquist to replace him.

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Sonia Sotomayor

Sonia Maria Sotomayor (born 1954) is an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, serving since August 2009. Sotomayor is the Court's 111th justice, its first Hispanic justice, and its third female justice. Sotomayor was born in The Bronx, New York City and is of Puerto Rican descent. Her father died when she was nine, and she was subsequently raised by her mother. Sotomayor graduated with an A.B., summa cum laude, from Princeton University in 1976 and received her J.D. from Yale Law School in 1979, where she was an editor at the Yale Law Journal. She was an advocate for the hiring of Latino faculty at both schools. She worked as an assistant district attorney in New York for five years before entering private practice in 1984. She played an active role on the boards of directors for the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, the State of New York Mortgage Agency, and the New York City Campaign Finance Board. Sotomayor was nominated to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York by President George H. W. Bush in 1991, and her nomination was confirmed in 1992. In 1995, she issued a preliminary injunction against Major League Baseball which ended the 1994 baseball strike. Sotomayor made a ruling allowing the Wall Street Journal to publish Vince Foster's final note. In 1997, she was nominated by President Bill Clinton to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Her nomination was slowed by the Republican majority in the Senate, but she was eventually confirmed in 1998. On the Second Circuit, Sotomayor heard appeals in more than 3,000 cases and wrote about 380 opinions. Sotomayor has taught at the New York University School of Law and Columbia Law School. In May 2009, President Barack Obama nominated Sotomayor for appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court to replace retired Justice David Souter. Her nomination was confirmed by the United States Senate in August 2009 by a vote of 68–31.

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Samuel Alito

Samuel Anthony Alito, Jr. (born 1950) is an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. He was nominated by President George W. Bush and has served on the court since January 31, 2006. Raised in Hamilton Township, New Jersey and educated at Princeton University and Yale Law School, Alito served as U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey and a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit prior to joining the Supreme Court. He is the 110th justice, the second Italian American and the eleventh Roman Catholic to serve on the court. Alito has been described by the Cato Institute as a conservative jurist with a libertarian streak.

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Robert Bork

Robert Heron Bork (born 1927) is an American legal scholar who has advocated the judicial philosophy of originalism. Bork formerly served as Solicitor General, Acting Attorney General, and judge for the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. In 1987, he was nominated to the Supreme Court by President Ronald Reagan, but the Senate rejected his nomination. Bork had more success as an antitrust scholar, where his once-idiosyncratic view that antitrust law should focus on maximizing consumer welfare has come to dominate American legal thinking on the subject. Currently, Bork is a lawyer, law professor, and bestselling author.

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Portrait of John Jay by Gilbert Stuart

John Jay (1745 – 1829) was an American politician, statesman, revolutionary, diplomat, a Founding Father of the United States, and the first Chief Justice of the United States (1789–95). Jay served as the President of the Continental Congress from 1778 to 1779. During and after the American Revolution, Jay was a minister (ambassador) to Spain and France, helping to fashion United States foreign policy, and to secure favorable peace terms from Great Britain (with Jay's Treaty of 1794) and the First French Republic. Jay also co-wrote the Federalist Papers, along with Alexander Hamilton and James Madison. As a leader of the new Federalist Party, Jay was the Governor of New York State from 1795 to 1801, and he became the state's leading opponent of slavery. His first two attempts to pass laws for the emancipation of all slaves in New York failed in 1777 and in 1785, but his third attempt succeeded in 1799. The new law that he signed into existence brought about the emancipation of all slaves there before his death in 1829.

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Louis Brandeis

Louis Dembitz Brandeis (1856 – 1941) was an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court of the United States from 1916 to 1939. He was born in Louisville, Kentucky, to Jewish immigrant parents who raised him in a secular mode. He enrolled at Harvard Law School, graduating at the age of twenty with the highest grade average in the college’s history. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson nominated Brandeis to become a member of the U.S. Supreme Court. However, his nomination was bitterly contested, partly because, as Justice William O. Douglas wrote, "Brandeis was a militant crusader for social justice whoever his opponent might be. He was dangerous not only because of his brilliance, his arithmetic, his courage. He was dangerous because he was incorruptible. . . [and] the fears of the Establishment were greater because Brandeis was the first Jew to be named to the Court." He was eventually confirmed by the Senate by a vote of 47 to 22 on June 1, 1916, and became one of the most famous and influential figures ever to serve on the high court. His opinions were, according to legal scholars, some of the “greatest defenses” of freedom of speech and the right to privacy ever written by a member of the high court.

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Roger B. Taney

Roger Brooke Taney (1777 – 1864) was the fifth Chief Justice of the United States, holding that office from 1836 until his death in 1864. He was the first Roman Catholic to hold that office or sit on the Supreme Court of the United States. He was also the eleventh United States Attorney General. He is most remembered for delivering the majority opinion in Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857), that ruled, among other things, that African Americans, having been considered inferior at the time the Constitution was drafted, were not part of the original community of citizens and could not be considered citizens of the United States. Taney was a Jacksonian Democrat when he became Chief Justice. Described by his and President Andrew Jackson's critics as "[a] supple, cringing tool of Jacksonian power," Taney was a believer in states' rights but also the Union; a slaveholder who regretted the institution and manumitted his slaves. From Prince Frederick, Maryland, he had practiced law and politics simultaneously and succeeded in both. After abandoning Federalism as a losing cause, he rose to the top of the state's Jacksonian machine. As U.S. Attorney General (1831–1833) and then Secretary of the Treasury (1833–1834), Taney became one of Andrew Jackson's closest advisers. Taney died during the final months of the American Civil War on the same day that his home state of Maryland abolished slavery.

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James F. Byrnes

James Francis Byrnes (1882 – 1972) was an American statesman from the state of South Carolina. During his career, Byrnes served as a member of the House of Representatives (1911–1925), as a Senator (1931–1941), as Justice of the Supreme Court (1941–1942), as Secretary of State (1945–1947), and as the 104th Governor of South Carolina (1951–1955). He therefore became one of very few politicians to be active in all three branches of the federal government while also being active in state government. He was also a confidant of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and was one of the most powerful men in American domestic and foreign policy in the mid-1940s.

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Benjamin N. Cardozo

Benjamin Nathan Cardozo (1870 – 1938) was a well-known American lawyer and associate Supreme Court Justice. Cardozo is remembered for his significant influence on the development of American common law in the 20th century, in addition to his modesty, philosophy, and vivid prose style. Cardozo served on the Supreme Court only six years, from 1932 until his death in 1938, and the majority of his landmark decisions were delivered during his eighteen year tenure on the New York Court of Appeals, the highest court of that state.

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Salmon P. Chase

Salmon Portland Chase (1808 – 1873) was an American politician and jurist who served as U.S. Senator from Ohio and the 23rd Governor of Ohio; as U.S. Treasury Secretary under President Abraham Lincoln; and as the sixth Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. Chase was one of the most prominent members of the new Republican Party before becoming Chief Justice. Chase articulated the "Slave Power conspiracy" thesis well before Lincoln. He coined the slogan of the Free Soil Party, "Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men." He devoted his energies to the destruction of what he considered the Slave Power – the conspiracy of Southern slave owners to seize control of the federal government and block the progress of liberty.

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Anthony Kennedy

Anthony McLeod Kennedy (born 1936) is an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, having been appointed by Republican President Ronald Reagan in 1988. Since the retirement of Sandra Day O'Connor, Kennedy has often been the swing vote on many of the Court's politically charged 5–4 decisions. Conservatives have felt betrayed by some of his decisions, but other observers say he reaches conservative results more often than not.

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James Clark McReynolds

James Clark McReynolds (1862 – 1946) was an American lawyer and judge who served both as United States Attorney General under President Woodrow Wilson and as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. He served on the Court from October 12, 1914 to his retirement on January 31, 1941, and was known for his conservative opinions opposing much of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal legislation.

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Sandra Day O'Connor

Sandra Day O'Connor (born 1930) is an American jurist who was the first female member of the Supreme Court of the United States. She served as an Associate Justice from 1981 until her retirement from the Court in 2006. O'Connor was appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1981. In the latter years of her tenure, she was regarded as having the swing opinion in many cases. Prior to O'Connor's appointment to the Court, she was an elected official and judge in Arizona. On July 1, 2005, she announced her intention to retire effective upon the confirmation of a successor. President George W. Bush first unsuccessfully nominated Harriet Miers to replace O'Connor, then nominated Justice Samuel Alito to take her seat in October 2005, and he joined the Court on January 31, 2006. O'Connor is Chancellor of The College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, and serves on the board of trustees of the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In 2001, the Ladies' Home Journal ranked her as the second-most-powerful woman in America. In 2004 and 2005, Forbes magazine listed her as the sixth- and thirty-sixth-most-powerful woman in the world, respectively; the only American women preceding her on the 2004 list were then-National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, then-U.S. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, and then-First Lady Laura Bush. On August 12, 2009, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor of the United States, by President Barack Obama.

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Stanley Forman Reed

Stanley Forman Reed (1884 – 1980) was a noted American attorney who served as United States Solicitor General from 1935 to 1938 and as an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court from 1938 to 1957. He was the last Supreme Court Justice who did not graduate from law school (though Justice Robert H. Jackson who served from 1941-1954 was the last such justice appointed to the Supreme Court).

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William Rehnquist

William Hubbs Rehnquist (1924 – 2005) was an American lawyer, jurist, and political figure who served as an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court of the United States and later as the 16th Chief Justice of the United States. Considered a conservative, Rehnquist favored a conception of federalism that emphasized the Tenth Amendment's reservation of powers to the states. Under this view of federalism, the Supreme Court of the United States, for the first time since the 1930s, struck down an Act of Congress as exceeding federal power under the Commerce Clause. Rehnquist presided as Chief Justice for nearly 19 years, making him the fourth-longest-serving Chief Justice after John Marshall, Roger Taney, and Melville Fuller, and the longest-serving Chief Justice who had previously served as an Associate Justice. The last 11 years of Rehnquist's term as Chief Justice (1994–2005) marked the second-longest tenure of a single unchanging roster of the Supreme Court.

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John Roberts

John Glover Roberts, Jr. (born January 27, 1955) is the 17th and current Chief Justice of the United States. He has served since 2005, having been nominated by President George W. Bush after the death of Chief Justice William Rehnquist. He has been described as having a conservative judicial philosophy in his jurisprudence. Roberts grew up in northern Indiana and was educated in a private school before attending Harvard College and Harvard Law School, where he was managing editor of the Harvard Law Review. After being admitted to the bar, he served as a law clerk for William Rehnquist before taking a position in the Attorney General's office during the Reagan Administration. He went on to serve the Reagan Administration and the George H. W. Bush administration in the Department of Justice and the Office of the White House Counsel, before spending fourteen years in private law practice. During this time, he argued thirty-nine cases before the Supreme Court. In 2003, he was appointed as a judge of the D.C. Circuit by President George W. Bush, where he served until his nomination to be an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. When Chief Justice Rehnquist died before Roberts's confirmation hearings, Bush renominated Roberts to fill the newly vacant center seat.

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John Rutledge

John Rutledge (1739 – 1800) was an American statesman and judge. He was the first Governor of South Carolina following the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the 31st overall. He was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention, and he signed the United States Constitution. He served as an Associate Justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, and was the second Chief Justice of the Court from July to December 1795. He was the elder brother of Edward Rutledge, a signatory of the Declaration of Independence.

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Clarence Thomas

Clarence Thomas (born June 23, 1948) is an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. Succeeding Thurgood Marshall, Thomas is the second African American to serve on the Court. Thomas grew up in Georgia and was educated at the College of the Holy Cross and at Yale Law School. In 1974, he was appointed an Assistant Attorney General in Missouri and subsequently practiced law there in the private sector. In 1979, he became a legislative assistant to Missouri Senator John Danforth and in 1981 was appointed Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education. In 1982, President Ronald Reagan appointed Thomas Chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and he served in that position until 1990, when President George H. W. Bush nominated him for a seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. On July 1, 1991, after one year and four months of service on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, Thomas was nominated by Bush to fill Marshall's seat on the United States Supreme Court. Thomas's confirmation hearings were bitter and intensely fought, centering on an accusation that he had made unwelcome sexual comments to attorney Anita Hill, a subordinate at the Department of Education and subsequently at the EEOC. The U.S. Senate ultimately confirmed Thomas by a vote of 52–48. Since joining the Court, Thomas has taken a textualist approach to judging, seeking to uphold what he sees as the original meaning of the United States Constitution and statutes. He is generally viewed as among the most conservative members of the Court.

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Earl Warren

Earl Warren (March 19, 1891 – July 9, 1974) was the 14th Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court and one of only two people to be elected Governor of California three times. Before holding these positions, Warren served as a district attorney for Alameda County, California and Attorney General of California. He is best known for the sweeping decisions of the Warren Court, which ended school segregation and transformed many areas of American law, especially regarding the rights of the accused, ending school prayer, and requiring "one-man-one vote" rules of apportionment. He made the Court a power center on a more even base with Congress and the presidency especially through four landmark decisions: Brown v. Board of Education (1954), Gideon v. Wainwright (1963), Reynolds v. Sims (1964), and Miranda v. Arizona (1966). As governor of California, Warren was a very popular Republican and popular across party lines, so much so that in the 1946 gubernatorial election he won the nominations of the Democratic, Progressive, and Republican parties and was reelected virtually without opposition. His tenure as Chief Justice was as divisive as his governorship was unifying. Liberals generally hailed the landmark rulings issued by the Warren Court which affected, among other things, the legal status of racial segregation, civil rights, separation of church and state, and police arrest procedure in the United States. In the years that followed, the Warren Court became recognized as a high point in the use of judicial power in the effort to effect social progress in the United States. Warren himself became widely regarded as one of the most influential Supreme Court justices in the history of the United States and perhaps the single most important jurist of the 20th century. In addition to the constitutional offices he held, Warren was also the vice-presidential nominee of the Republican Party in 1948, and chaired the Warren Commission, which was formed to investigate the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

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Byron White

Byron Raymond "Whizzer" White (June 8, 1917 – April 15, 2002) won fame both as a football halfback and as an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. Appointed to the court by President John F. Kennedy in 1962, he served until his retirement in 1993. He was married to Marion Lloyd Stearns in 1946 and the father of two children, Charles (Barney) Byron White and Nancy Pitkin White. White was born in Fort Collins, Colorado. He was raised in the nearby town of Wellington, Colorado, where he obtained his high school diploma in 1930. He made a point of returning to Wellington on an annual basis for his high school reunions up until 1999 when his physical health worsened significantly. He died in Denver at the age of 84 from complications of pneumonia. He was the first and only Supreme Court Justice from the state of Colorado.

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