Jurist, US Solicitor General, US Attorney General, and US Supreme Court Associate Justice. A member of the Democratic party, he served as the 24th US Solicitor General from March 1938 until January 1940, the 57th US Attorney General from January 1940 until August 1941, and the US Supreme Court from July 1941 until his death. As of this date, he is the only person in US history to have held all three of those offices. He was one of the great defenders of procedural due process, for the rule of law that protects members of the public from overreaching by government agencies. He, along with Stanley Reed, were the last US Supreme Court justices who never graduated from a law school. His parents were farmers and he was raised in Frewsburg, New York. After graduating from Frewsburg High School in 1909, he apprenticed with his lawyer uncle in Jamestown, New York. In 1911 he attended Albany Law School in Albany, New York, and graduated the following year but was not awarded his law degree because he was under the age of 21. He then returned to his law apprenticeship in Jamestown and passed his bar examination the following year, and joined a law practice. He moved to Buffalo, New York to practice law and a few years later he returned to Jamestown and established a successful law practice. In 1934 President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed him as general counsel of the US Treasury Department's Bureau of Internal Revenue, followed in 1936 as Assistant Attorney General of the Tax Division of the Department of Justice, and in 1937 as Assistant Attorney General of the Antitrust Division. In March 1938 he became the US Solicitor General and in January 1940 Roosevelt appointed him as US Attorney General. In that position, he helped Roosevelt organize the Lend-Lease Agreement to provide war materials to England and other Allied nations in the early stages of World War II. In July 1941 Roosevelt appointed him to the US Supreme Court, taking the seat vacated when Associate Justice Harlan Fisk Stone replaced the retiring Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes. During his tenure on the High Court, he was known for his profound professional and personal disagreements with fellow Associate Justice Hugo Black on many occasions. Known for his eloquent writing style and championing of individual liberties, he wrote the majority opinion in "West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette" (1943), which overturned a public school regulation making it mandatory to salute the flag and imposing penalties of expulsion and prosecution upon students who failed to comply. His other notable case reviews include "Dennis v. United States" (1951), that argued the 1st Amendment rights to exercise free speech if it involved a creation of a plot to overthrow the US government, "Korematsu v. United States" (1944) that dealt with the constitutionality of Executive Order 9066, the placement of Japanese Americans into internment camps during World War II, and "Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka" (1954), the landmark decision in which state laws establishing separate public schools for black and white students were declared unconstitutional. In 1945 he was appointed by President Harry Truman to serve as US Chief Counsel for the prosecution of Nazi war criminals at Nuremberg, Germany and assisted in drafting the London Charter of the International Military Tribunal, which created the legal basis for the Nuremberg Trials. His opening and closing arguments before the Nuremberg court are widely considered among the best speeches of the 20th century. Following the conclusion of the Nuremberg trials in October 1946, he returned to the US to resume his Supreme Court duties. He died from a heart attack at the age of 62 and seat was filled by John Marshall Harlan II. He was portrayed by actors Alec Baldwin in the film "Nuremberg" (2000), Edmund Dehn in the German television miniseries "Speer und Er" (2005, released as "Speer and Hitler: The Devil's Architect"), and Colin Stinton in the British television docudrama "Nuremberg: Nazis on Trial" (2006). A large collection of his personal and judicial papers reside in the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress in Washington DC. The US District Court for the Western District of New York in Buffalo, New York is named the Robert H. Jackson US Courthouse in his honor.
Bio by: William Bjornstad
Irene Gerhardt Jackson