Robert Trimble

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Robert Trimble
RobertTrimble.jpg
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States
In office
June 16, 1826 – August 25, 1828
Nominated byJohn Quincy Adams
Preceded byThomas Todd
Succeeded byJohn McLean
Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Kentucky
In office
January 31, 1817 – May 9, 1826
Nominated byJames Madison
Preceded byHarry Innes
Succeeded byJohn Boyle
Personal details
Born
Robert Trimble

(1776-11-17)November 17, 1776
Berkeley County, Virginia[A]
DiedAugust 25, 1828(1828-08-25) (aged 51)
Paris, Kentucky
Resting placeParis Cemetery, Paris, Kentucky
Spouse
Nancy P. Timberlake
(m. 1803)
Educationread law
OccupationLawyer
ProfessionJurist

Robert Trimble (November 17, 1776 – August 25, 1828) was a lawyer and jurist who served as Justice of the Kentucky Court of Appeals, as United States district judge of the United States District Court for the District of Kentucky and as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from 1826 to his death in 1828. During his brief Supreme Court tenure he authored several majority opinions, including the decision in Ogden v. Saunders, which was the only majority opinion that Chief Justice John Marshall ever dissented from during his 34 years on the Court.[2]

Early life and career[edit]

Trimble was born on November 17, 1776,[3] in Berkeley County, Virginia[A] to William Trimble (d. 1806) and Mary McMillan. He was three years old when his family emigrated to the Cumberland Plateau region of Virginia's Kentucky County, initially to Fort Boonesborough and then to a settlement in present-day Clark County, Kentucky.[4][5]

He attended Transylvania University and read law under two attorneys,[6] first George Nicholas and then (after Nicholas' death in 1799) James Brown. He was licensed to practice law by the Kentucky Court of Appeals in 1803 and began a law practice in Paris, Kentucky.[5] He established his office at Eades Tavern, which also became his home.[7]

On August 18, 1803, he married Nancy P. Timberlake; together they had at least 10 children.[2][8] Their daughter Rebecca married Garrett Davis, who represented Kentucky in the U.S. House (1839–1847) and then in the U.S. Senate (1861–1872).[9] Another of Trimble's daughters was the mother of James G. Jones, the first mayor of Evansville, Indiana and the third Indiana Attorney General.[10]

Trimble was elected to represent Bourbon County in the Kentucky House of Representatives in 1802.[6][11] A staunch Jeffersonian Republican, he served only one term, as he intensely disliked the tumult of politics.[12] He thereafter refused election to any public office, including two nominations to the U.S. Senate.[5][11]

In 1807, Trimble accepted an appointment to the Kentucky Court of Appeals, but resigned in 1809 for financial and family reasons;[12] he later declined an appointment to become that Court's chief justice in 1810. From 1813 to 1817 he served as United States Attorney for the District of Kentucky.[5][6] During this time, Trimble proved himself a tireless legal researcher and an energetic prosecutor.[12] Trimble also owned twenty-three slaves at the time of the 1820 census.[13]

Federal judicial service[edit]

U.S. District Court for Kentucky[edit]

Trimble was nominated as District Judge for the U.S. District Court for Kentucky by President James Madison on January 28, 1817. Confirmed by the U.S. Senate on January 31, 1817, he served for nine years, until his appointment to the Supreme Court of the United States in May 1826.[3][14]

Supreme Court[edit]

Nomination and confirmation[edit]

Trimble was nominated as an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court by President John Quincy Adams on April 11, 1826, to succeed Thomas Todd.[15] Opposition to the nomination came from fellow Kentuckian, Senator John Rowan, whose states' rights views ran counter to positions taken by Trimble while serving on the circuit court that favored federal authority over state authority.[16] The effort to stall the nomination failed, and Trimble was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on May 9, 1826, by a 27-5 vote.[17]

Tenure[edit]

Trimble served on the Court from June 16, 1826 until August 25, 1828.[18] During his Supreme Court tenure, Trimble generally agreed with the opinions of Chief Justice John Marshall.[3] In a notable departure, he wrote the majority opinion in the case of Ogden v. Saunders; Marshall wrote the dissenting opinion in the case.[3]

Death and legacy[edit]

Justice Robert Trimble's grave at Paris Cemetery in Paris, Kentucky is marked by a 25-foot granite obelisk.[11][19]

Following the 1828 Supreme Court term, Trimble returned home. That summer, he became ill with a bilious fever and died on August 25,[2] at the age of 52.[20] He was interred in Paris Cemetery.[5][19] Following Trimble's death, Chief Justice Marshall wrote to Senator Henry Clay saying,

I need not say how deeply I regret the loss of Judge Trimble. He was distinguished for sound sense, uprightness of intention and legal knowledge. His superior cannot be found. I wish we may find his equal.[2]

Justice Joseph Story, who served with Trimble, wrote,

No one was superior to Trimble in talents, in learning, in acuteness, in sagacity. All admired him for his integrity, firmness, public spirit and unconquerable industry. His judgments were remarkable for clearness, strength, vigor of reasoning and exactness of conclusion. Perhaps no man ever on the bench gained so much in so short a period of his judicial career.[2]

Trimble County, Kentucky, established in 1837, is named for Justice Trimble.[21][22] Also, the Liberty ship SS Robert Trimble, built in Brunswick, Georgia during World War II, was named in his honor.[23]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b The county in which Trimble was born is not known for certain as some authorities name Berkeley County, Virginia while others identify Augusta County, Virginia.[1]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Goff, John S. (January 1960). "Mr. Justice Trimble of the United States Supreme Court". Register of the Kentucky Historical Society. 58 (1): 6–28. JSTOR 23374516.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Where in the World: One of America's 'forgotten men of history'". Winchester Sun. January 18, 2019. Archived from the original on December 10, 2020. Retrieved September 18, 2019.
  3. ^ a b c d "Robert Trimble (1776-1828)". History of the Sixth Circuit. United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. Archived from the original on December 27, 2010. Retrieved June 9, 2011.
  4. ^ Enoch, Harry G.; Crabb, Anne (2014-09-14). Women at Fort Boonesborough, 1775–1784. Fort Boonesborough Foundation. p. 124. ISBN 978-1-312-42827-0. Archived from the original on 2021-11-09. Retrieved 2020-11-07.
  5. ^ a b c d e Biographical Cyclopedia of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Chicago, Illinois: J.M. Gresham Company. 1896. pp. 270–271.
  6. ^ a b c "Robert Trimble, 1826-1828". supremecourthistory.org. Washington, D.C.: Supreme Court Historical Society. Archived from the original on September 21, 2019. Retrieved September 16, 2019.
  7. ^ "Eades Tavern". hopewellmuseum.org. Paris, Kentucky: Hopewell Museum. Archived from the original on August 9, 2020. Retrieved September 17, 2019.
  8. ^ Cushman, Clare, ed. (2013). The Supreme Court Justices: Illustrated Biographies, 1789–2012 (Third ed.). CQ Press. pp. 84–87. ISBN 978-1-60871-833-7. Archived from the original on 2021-11-09. Retrieved 2020-11-07.
  9. ^ "Garrett Davis". hopewellmuseum.org. Paris, Kentucky: Hopewell Museum. Archived from the original on August 11, 2020. Retrieved September 17, 2019.
  10. ^ Esarey, Logan (1922). A History of Indiana from its exploration to 1922. Dayton: Dayton Historical Publishing Company.
  11. ^ a b c "Today in Masonic History: Robert Trimble passes away in 1828". masonrytoday.com. August 25, 2015. Archived from the original on August 12, 2020. Retrieved September 15, 2019.
  12. ^ a b c Vanburkleo, Sandra F. (1993). "Trimble, Robert". kyenc.org. Lexington, Kentucky: University Press of Kentucky. Archived from the original on July 17, 2019. Retrieved September 16, 2019.
  13. ^ Robert Trimble, United States census, 1820; North Middletown, Bourbon, Kentucky;.
  14. ^ "U.S. District Court for the District of Kentucky: Judges". fjc.gov. Washington, D.C.: Federal Judicial Center. Archived from the original on November 17, 2019. Retrieved September 17, 2019.
  15. ^ "Supreme Court Nominations (1789-Present)". Washington, D.C.: United States Senate. Retrieved February 16, 2022.
  16. ^ Abraham, Henry J.; Goldberg, Edward M. (February 1960). "A note on the Appointment of Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States". American Bar Association Journal. 46 (2): 147. Retrieved March 7, 2022.
  17. ^ McMillion, Barry J. (January 28, 2022). Supreme Court Nominations, 1789 to 2020: Actions by the Senate, the Judiciary Committee, and the President (PDF) (Report). Washington, D.C.: Congressional Research Service. Retrieved February 16, 2022.
  18. ^ "Justices 1789 to Present". Washington, D.C.: Supreme Court of the United States. Retrieved February 16, 2022.
  19. ^ a b Christensen, George A. "Here Lies the Supreme Court: Gravesites of the Justices". Yearbook 1983 Supreme Court Historical Society. Washington, D.C.: Supreme Court Historical Society. 1983: 17–30. Archived from the original on September 3, 2005. Retrieved September 20, 2019.
  20. ^ Goldfarb, Zachary A.; DePillis, Lydia (February 13, 2016). "Why the death of a Supreme Court justice in office is unusual". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on September 16, 2019. Retrieved September 18, 2019.
  21. ^ "Trimble County". The Kentucky Encyclopedia. 2000. Archived from the original on October 13, 2018. Retrieved August 23, 2014.
  22. ^ The Register of the Kentucky State Historical Society, Volume 1. Kentucky State Historical Society. 1903. pp. 37.
  23. ^ Williams, Greg H. (July 25, 2014). The Liberty Ships of World War II: A Record of the 2,710 Vessels and Their Builders, Operators and Namesakes, with a History of the Jeremiah O'Brien. McFarland. ISBN 978-1476617541. Archived from the original on October 14, 2021. Retrieved December 9, 2017.

External links[edit]

Legal offices
Preceded by Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Kentucky
1817–1826
Succeeded by
Preceded by Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States
1826–1828
Succeeded by