Arthur T. Vanderbilt

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Arthur T. Vanderbilt (July 7, 1888 – June 16, 1957) was Chief Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court from 1948 to 1957; the first Chief Justice under the revamped New Jersey court system established by the Constitution of 1947, in which the Supreme Court replaced the old Court of Errors and Appeals as the highest court. He also was an attorney, legal educator and proponent of court modernization.[1]

Early years and education[edit]

Vanderbilt was born in Newark, New Jersey. He attended Newark (now Barringer) High School where he was class president, editor of the newspaper, and a member of two fraternal groups, The Ramblers (later Omega Gamma Delta) and Lambda Tau. Following high school he took off a year to work on the railroad to earn money for college.

He attended Wesleyan University, where he was a member of Delta Kappa Epsilon, president of the student body, and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. A sidelight of his Wesleyan career was the inauguration of President William A. Shanklin. Vanderbilt was one of the inauguration speakers, along with U. S. President William Howard Taft, and then startled Taft by showing up later as a waiter at the inaugural dinner. Vanderbilt then attended Columbia University School of Law.


Many of Vanderbilt's ideas for court reform had been incorporated into the new judicial article of the New Jersey Constitution. One of the those innovations was the designation of the Chief Justice as the administrative head of all courts in the state, replacing the previous system of almost completely autonomous courts. As Chief Justice, he created the first state Administrative Office of the Courts in the nation.[2]

Vanderbilt was President of the American Bar Association in 1937–38. He also served for many years as Dean of New York University Law School, currently housed in a building that bears his name. Vanderbilt was a delegate to the Republican National Convention in 1936, 1940 and 1944. On two separate occasions he declined to be considered for nominations to the U.S. Supreme Court.[3] Vanderbilt was the principal mentor to William J. Brennan, Jr when Brennan was a member of the New Jersey Supreme Court and played an instrumental role in Dwight D. Eisenhower's nomination of Brennan to the United States Supreme Court.[4]


Vanderbilt authored many articles and a number of books, including:[5][6]

  • Men and Measures in the Law
  • The Challenge of Legal Reform
  • The Doctrine of the Separation of Powers and Its Present-Day Significance
  • Judges and Jurors
  • Improving The Administration of Justice

Honorable distinctions[edit]

For his work in law reform, he was awarded 32 honorary degrees and the American Bar Association Gold Medal.[7][8]

Personal life[edit]

His grandson, Arthur T. Vanderbilt, II, is an attorney, author, avid gardener, partner in a New Jersey law firm, and former deputy attorney general of New Jersey.[9] One of his books is Fortune's Children: The Fall of the House of Vanderbilt (1989)[10][11]

External resources[edit]


  1. ^ "Arthur T. Vanderbilt" (PDF). 
  2. ^ "Vanderbilt, 68, Dead. Jersey Chief Justice. Arthur Vanderbilt, Chief Justice Of New Jersey, Is Dead at 68 Held Annual Conferences Counsel to Norman Thomas Headed American Bar Group.". New York Times. June 16, 1957. Summit, New Jersey, June 16, 1957. Chief Justice Arthur T. Vanderbilt of the New Jersey Supreme Court died at 1:20 this morning in Overlook Hospital here. 
  3. ^ Page 5
  4. ^ Pages 5-7
  5. ^ Vanderbilt II, Arthur T. (1976). "Changing Law: A Biography of Arthur T. Vanderbilt". Rutgers University Press. 
  6. ^ Vile, John R. (editor) (2003). Great American Judges: An Encyclopedia. ASC CLIO. 
  7. ^ "Selected Writings of Arthur T. Vanderbilt. F.J. Klein and J.S. Lee (editors). (Oceana Publications, 1965); The Yale Biographical Dictionary of American Law, Roger K. Newman (editor). (Yale University Press, 2009).". 
  8. ^
  9. ^ "Author Profile: Arthur T. Vanderbilt, II". Goodreads. 
  10. ^ Vanderbilt II, Arthur T. (1989). Fortune's Children: The Fall of the House of Vanderbilt. William Morrow and Company. 
  11. ^ Robehmed, Natalie (July 14, 2014). "The Vanderbilts: How American Royalty Lost Their Crown Jewels". Fortune. 
Legal offices
Preceded by
First Chief Justice under 1947 Constitution
Chief Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court
Succeeded by
Joseph Weintraub