Fred M. Vinson
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|Fred M. Vinson|
|13th Chief Justice of the United States|
June 21, 1946 – September 8, 1953
|Nominated by||Harry Truman|
|Preceded by||Harlan Stone|
|Succeeded by||Earl Warren|
|53rd United States Secretary of the Treasury|
July 23, 1945 – June 23, 1946
|Preceded by||Henry Morgenthau|
|Succeeded by||John Snyder|
|Director of the Office of Economic Stabilization|
May 28, 1943 – July 23, 1945
|Preceded by||James Byrnes|
|Succeeded by||William Davis|
|Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit|
December 15, 1937 – May 28, 1943
|Nominated by||Franklin Roosevelt|
|Preceded by||Charles Robb|
|Succeeded by||Wilbur Miller|
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Kentucky's 8th district
March 4, 1933 – May 27, 1938
|Preceded by||Ralph Gilbert|
|Succeeded by||Joe Bates|
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Kentucky's 9th district
March 4, 1931 – March 3, 1933
|Preceded by||Elva Kendall|
|Succeeded by||John Brown|
January 24, 1924 – March 3, 1929
|Preceded by||William Fields|
|Succeeded by||Elva Kendall|
|Born||Frederick Moore Vinson
January 22, 1890
Louisa, Kentucky, U.S.
|Died||September 8, 1953 (aged 63)
Washington, D.C., U.S.
|Spouse(s)||Julia Roberta Dixon|
|Education||Centre College (BA, LLB)|
|Service/branch||United States Army|
|Years of service||1918|
|Battles/wars||World War I|
Frederick "Fred" Moore Vinson (January 22, 1890 – September 8, 1953) was an American politician who served the United States in all three branches of government and was the most prominent member of the Vinson political family. In the legislative branch, he was an elected member of the United States House of Representatives from Louisa, Kentucky, for twelve years. In the executive branch, he was Secretary of the Treasury under President Harry S. Truman. In the judicial branch, President Truman appointed Vinson the 13th Chief Justice of the United States in 1946. To date, he is the last candidate nominated by a president from the Democratic Party to be confirmed as Chief Justice (Lyndon Johnson nominated Abe Fortas as Chief Justice in 1968, but Fortas later withdrew his name from consideration).
Frederick Moore Vinson, known universally as "Fred", was born in the newly built, eight-room, red brick house in front of the Lawrence County jail in Louisa, Kentucky, where his father served as the Lawrence County Jailer. As a child he would help his father in the jail and even made friends with prisoners who would remember his kindness when he later ran for public office. Vinson worked odd jobs while in school. He graduated from Kentucky Normal School in 1908 and enrolled at Centre College, where he graduated at the top of his class. While at Centre, he was a member of the Kentucky Alpha Delta chapter of Phi Delta Theta fraternity. He became a lawyer in Louisa, a small town of 2,500 residents. He first ran for and was elected to office as the City Attorney of Louisa.
He joined the Army during World War I. Following the war, he was elected as the Commonwealth's Attorney for the Thirty-Second Judicial District of Kentucky. Vinson married Julia Roberta Dixon on January 24, 1924 in Ashland, Kentucky. They had two sons:
- Frederick Vinson, Jr., who married the former Nell Morrison and had two children: Frederick M. Vinson III and Carolyn Pharr Vinson;
- James Vinson, who married the former Margaret Russell and had four children: James Robert Vinson, Margaret Vinson, Michael Arthur Vinson and Matthew Dixon Vinson.
U.S. Representative from Kentucky
In 1924, he ran in a special election for his district's seat in Congress after William J. Fields resigned to become the governor of Kentucky. Vinson was elected as a Democrat and then was reelected twice before losing in 1928. His loss was attributed to his refusal to dissociate his campaign from Alfred E. Smith's presidential campaign. However, Vinson came back to win re-election in 1930, and he served in Congress through 1937, the year he is alleged to have falsified the Congressional Record with regard to testimony of Dr. William C. Woodward during passage of the Marihuana [sic] Tax Act of 1937. When the position of the American Medical Association on the measure was questioned, Vinson misrepresented both Woodward's and the AMA's position while referring to Woodward as "Dr. William Wharton".
While he was in Congress he befriended Missouri Senator Harry S. Truman, a friendship that would last throughout his life. He soon became a close advisor, confidant, card player, and dear friend to Truman. After Truman decided against running for another term as president in the early 1950s, he tried to convince a skeptical Vinson to seek the Democratic Party nomination, but Vinson turned down the President's offer. After being equally unsuccessful in enlisting General Dwight D. Eisenhower, President Truman eventually landed on Governor of Illinois Adlai Stevenson as his preferred successor in the 1952 presidential election.
U.S. Court of Appeals
Vinson's Congressional service ended after he was nominated by Franklin D. Roosevelt on November 26, 1937, to the federal bench. Roosevelt wanted him to fill a seat vacated by Charles H. Robb on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Vinson was confirmed by the United States Senate on December 9, 1937, and received his commission on December 15, 1937. While he was there, he was designated by Chief Justice Harlan Fiske Stone on March 2, 1942, as chief judge of the United States Emergency Court of Appeals. He served here until his resignation on May 27, 1943.
Secretary of the Treasury
He resigned from the bench to become Director of the Office of Economic Stabilization, an executive agency charged with fighting inflation. He also spent time as Federal Loan Administrator (March 6 to April 3, 1945) and director of War Mobilization and Reconversion (April 4 to July 22, 1945). He was appointed United States Secretary of the Treasury by President Truman and served from July 23, 1945, to June 23, 1946.
His mission as Secretary of the Treasury was to stabilize the American economy during the last months of the war and to adapt the United States financial position to the drastically changed circumstances of the postwar world. Before the war ended, Vinson directed the last of the great war-bond drives.
At the end of the war, he negotiated payment of the British Loan of 1946, the largest loan made by the United States to another country ($3.75 billion), and the lend-lease settlements of economic and military aid given to the allies during the war. In order to encourage private investment in postwar America, he promoted a tax cut in the Revenue Act of 1945. He also supervised the inauguration of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the International Monetary Fund, both created at the Bretton Woods Conference of 1944, acting as the first chairman of their respective boards. In 1946, Vinson resigned from the Treasury to be appointed Chief Justice of the United States by Truman; the Senate confirmed him by voice vote on June 20 of that year (E. H. Moore had expressed opposition but was not present for the vote).
Vinson took the oath of office as Chief Justice on June 24, 1946. President Truman had nominated his old friend after Harlan Fiske Stone died. His appointment came at a time when the Supreme Court was deeply fractured, both intellectually and personally. One faction was led by Justice Hugo Black, the other by Justice Felix Frankfurter. Some of the justices would not even speak to one another. Vinson was credited with patching this fracture,[according to whom?] at least on a personal level.
In his time on the Supreme Court, he wrote 77 opinions for the court and 13 dissents. His most dramatic dissent was when the court voided President Truman's seizure of the steel industry during a strike in a June 3, 1952 decision, Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer. His final public appearance at the court was when he read the decision not to review the conviction and death sentence of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. After Justice William O. Douglas granted a stay of execution to the Rosenbergs at the last moment, Chief Justice Vinson sent special flights out to bring vacationing justices back to Washington in order to ensure the execution of the Rosenbergs. During his tenure as Chief Justice, one of his law clerks was future Associate Justice Byron White.
The major issues his court dealt with included racial segregation, labor unions, communism and loyalty oaths. On racial segregation, he wrote that states practicing the separate but equal doctrine must provide facilities that were truly equal, in Sweatt v. Painter and McLaurin v. Oklahoma State Regents. The case of Briggs v. Elliott was before the Court at the time of his death. Vinson, not wanting a 5-4 decision, had ordered a second hearing of the case. He died before the case could be reheard, and his vote may have been pivotal, q.v., discussion of Brown in Felix Frankfurter. Upon his death, Earl Warren was appointed to the Court and the case was heard again.
As Chief Justice, he swore in Harry S. Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower as President.
Vinson is the last Chief Justice to have been appointed by a Democratic President, namely Harry Truman. His successors, Earl Warren, Warren Burger, William Rehnquist and John Roberts were all appointed by Republican presidents (Dwight D. Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George W. Bush, respectively). As the leader of a court entirely appointed by Roosevelt and Truman, he is also the last Chief Justice to preside over a court solely nominated by presidents of one political party (Harold Hitz Burton, the sole remaining Republican on the Court upon Vinson's death, had been nominated to the Court by Truman).
Potential cabinet position
When Secretary of State Dean Acheson came under fire from congressional Republicans for being "soft on communism" at the end of 1950 Vinson was briefly mentioned as the new Secretary of State and Dean Acheson as the new Chief Justice. This speculation died down when President Truman retained Acheson at the State Department.
Death and legacy
A portrait of Vinson hangs in the hallway of the chapter house of the Kentucky Alpha-Delta chapter of Phi Delta Theta (ΦΔΘ) international fraternity, at Centre College. Vinson was a member of the chapter in his years at Centre. Affectionately known as "Dead Fred", the portrait is taken by fraternity members to Centre football and basketball games and other events.
- "Fred M. Vinson". Laws.com. Retrieved April 23, 2013.
- David Leonhardt (June 2, 2014). "The Supreme Court Blunder That Liberals Tend to Make", The New York Times. Retrieved June 3, 2014.
- Video: Big Four Turns Down Austria on Tyrol, 1946/06/24 (1946). Universal Newsreel. 1946. Retrieved February 20, 2012.
- James E. St. Clair and Linda C. Gugin, Chief Justice Fred M. Vinson of Kentucky: A Political Biography, p. 169-171.
- James E. St. Clair and Linda C. Gugin, Chief Justice Fred M. Vinson of Kentucky: A Political Biography, p. 169-170.
- Frederick M. Vinson memorial at Find a Grave. See also, Christensen, George A. (1983) Here Lies the Supreme Court: Gravesites of the Justices, Yearbook Archived September 3, 2005, at the Wayback Machine.. Supreme Court Historical Society. Christensen, George A., Here Lies the Supreme Court: Revisited, Journal of Supreme Court History, Volume 33 Issue 1, Pages 17 - 41 (19 February 2008), University of Alabama.
- Abraham, Henry J., Justices and Presidents: A Political History of Appointments to the Supreme Court. 3d. ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992). ISBN 0-19-506557-3.
- Cushman, Clare, The Supreme Court Justices: Illustrated Biographies,1789-1995 (2nd ed.) (Supreme Court Historical Society), (Congressional Quarterly Books, 2001) ISBN 1-56802-126-7; ISBN 978-1-56802-126-3.
- Frank, John P., The Justices of the United States Supreme Court: Their Lives and Major Opinions (Leon Friedman and Fred L. Israel, editors) (Chelsea House Publishers: 1995) ISBN 0-7910-1377-4, ISBN 978-0-7910-1377-9.
- Hall, Kermit L., ed. The Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court of the United States. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992. ISBN 0-19-505835-6; ISBN 978-0-19-505835-2.
- Martin, Fenton S. and Goehlert, Robert U., The U.S. Supreme Court: A Bibliography, (Congressional Quarterly Books, 1990). ISBN 0-87187-554-3.
- Pritchett, C. Herman, Civil Liberties and the Vinson Court. (The University of Chicago Press, 1969) ISBN 978-0-226-68443-7; ISBN 0-226-68443-1.
- St. Clair, James E., and Gugin, Linda C., Chief Justice Fred M. Vinson of Kentucky: A Political Biography (University Press of Kentucky: 2002) ISBN 0-8131-2247-3; ISBN 978-0-8131-2247-2.
- Symposium, In Memoriam: Chief Justice Fred M. Vinson, 49 Northwestern University Law Review 1–75, (1954).
- Urofsky, Melvin I., Division and Discord: The Supreme Court under Stone and Vinson, 1941-1953 (University of South Carolina Press, 1997) ISBN 1-57003-120-7.
- Urofsky, Melvin I., The Supreme Court Justices: A Biographical Dictionary (New York: Garland Publishing 1994). 590 pp. ISBN 0-8153-1176-1; ISBN 978-0-8153-1176-8.
|Wikisource has original text related to this article:|
- Fred M. Vinson at the Biographical Directory of Federal Judges, a public domain publication of the Federal Judicial Center.
- Biography, at the U.S. Treasury Office of the Curator.
- Truman Presents Supreme Court Chief Justice Vinson With Historic Gavel, 1948 Shapell Manuscript Foundation
- Chief Justice Vinson dies of Heart Attack, New York Times, September 8, 1953.
- Fred M. Vinson at Find a Grave
- United States Congress. "Fred M. Vinson (id: V000106)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress..
- Obituary, NY Times, September 9, 1953, Vinson Excelled In Federal Posts.
- Oyez Project, Fred M. Vinson, United States Supreme Court.
- Supreme Court Historical Society, The Vinson Court.