United States Supreme Court Associate Justice. A member of the Democratic Party, he served in this position from December 1909 until his death. Born Horace Harmon Lurton in Newport, Kentucky, his father was a doctor who became a clergyman. Prior to the outbreak of the American Civil War, he attended Douglas University and during the war, he served in the Confederate Army as a sergeant major in various Tennessee and Kentucky military units and was captured twice by Union forces. After being paroled from a Union prisoner of war camp by President Abraham Lincoln the second time, he attended the Cumberland School of Law at Lebanon, Tennessee and graduated with a Doctor of Laws Degree in 1867. He then engaged in private law practice in Clarksville, Tennessee until 1875, when he became a judge of the Tennessee Chancery Court for the 6th Chancery Division. Three years later he returned to his law practice until he was appointed to the Tennessee Supreme Court in 1886. In March 1893 President Grover Cleveland appointed him to the bench of the US Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, serving in that position until December 1909. During this period, he taught constitutional law at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee from 1898 until 1905 and served as dean of the Vanderbilt University School of Law from 1905 until 1909. In 1909, at the age of 65 (the oldest justice ever appointed to the High Court), President William Howard Taft nominated him to the US Supreme Court, to fill the seat vacated by the death of Justice Rufus Wheeler Peckham, and he was confirmed by the US Senate. During his tenure, he wrote 87 opinions with none of them being major decisions. He usually sided with Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes and took a special interest in the effort to reform the equity rules in US federal courts. He died of a heart attack at the age of 70 while vacationing at Atlantic City, New Jersey. His seat was then filled by the appointment of Justice James Clark McReyonlds.
Bio by: William Bjornstad
Mary Frances Owen Lurton