Harry S. Truman Supreme Court candidates

Harry S. Truman Supreme Court candidates

During his two terms in office, President Harry S. Truman appointed four members of the Supreme Court of the United States: Chief Justice Fred M. Vinson, and Associate Justices Harold Burton, Tom C. Clark, and Sherman Minton.

Harold Burton nomination

When Supreme Court Associate Justice Owen J. Roberts retired in 1945, Truman decided to appoint a Republican as a bipartisan gesture. Truman had first met Harold Hitz Burton in 1941, when Burton was elected to the United States Senate, where Truman was then serving. Burton served with Truman on the Senate investigative committee that oversaw the U.S. war effort during World War II, and the two got along well.

On September 19, 1945, Truman nominated Burton, who was unanimously confirmed by the United States Senate on the same day by voice vote, without hearing or debate.[1]

Fred Vinson nomination

Chief Justice Harlan Fiske Stone died in office on April 2, 1946. Rumors that Truman would appoint Robert H. Jackson as Stone's successor led several newspapers to investigate and report on a controversy between Justice Roberts and Justice Hugo Black arising from Black's refusal to recuse himself in Jewell Ridge Coal Corp. v. Local 6167, United Mine Workers (1945).[2][3] Black and Douglas allegedly leaked to newspapers that they would resign if Jackson were appointed Chief Justice.[3] On June 6, 1946, Truman nominated Fred M. Vinson, an old friend, as Stone's replacement. Vinson was confirmed by the United States Senate on June 20, 1946 by voice vote.[1]

Tom Clark nomination

The next vacancy occurred with the death of Justice Frank Murphy on July 19, 1949. On August 2, 1949, Truman nominated Tom C. Clark. The New York Times called Clark "a personal and political friend [of Truman's] with no judicial experience and few demonstrated qualifications."[4] Nevertheless, Clark was confirmed by the United States Senate on August 18, 1949 by a vote of 73-8.[1]

Sherman Minton nomination

Truman's final opportunity to shape the Court came with the death of Wiley Blount Rutledge, also in 1949. Sherman Minton had previously served alongside Truman in the United States Senate, where the two had developed a close friendship. After Minton's 1940 Senate re-election bid had failed, President Roosevelt appointed him as a federal judge to the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. On September 15, 1949, Truman nominated Minton to the Supreme Court, and the nomination was confirmed by the United States Senate on October 4, 1949 by a vote of 48-16.[1]

Names mentioned

Following is a list of individuals who were mentioned in various news accounts and books as having been considered by Truman for a Supreme Court appointment:

United States Supreme Court (elevation to Chief Justice)

United States Courts of Appeals

Courts of Appeals

NOTE: At the time of Truman's presidency, the states of the Eleventh Circuit were part of the Fifth Circuit. The Eleventh Circuit was not created until 1981.

United States District Courts

State Supreme Courts

Executive Branch officials

United States Senators

Other backgrounds

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Supreme Court Nominations, 1789-present, senate.gov.
  2. ^ Roger K. Newman, Hugo Black (Fordham University Press) p. 333-334.
  3. ^ a b John M. Ferren, Salt of the Earth, Conscience of the Court (UNC Press) p. 325.
  4. ^ Eisler, Kim Isaac (1993). A Justice for All: William J. Brennan, Jr., and the decisions that transformed America. Page 76. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-671-76787-9
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Yalof, David Alistair. Pursuit of Justices: Presidential Politics and the Selection of Supreme Court Nominees. University of Chicago Press.  
  6. ^ Salokar and Volcansek (1996). Women in Law: A Bio-bibliographical Sourcebook. p. 20.