Supreme Court Justice Tom C. Clark: A Life of Service

By Mimi Clark Gronlund | Go to book overview

Prologue

He is a great man and was a great Justice.

Stanley M. Barnes, judge of the
Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, 1967

“O YEZ! OYEZ! OYEZ! All persons having business before the Honorable, the Supreme Court of the United States, are admonished to draw near and give their attention, for the Court is now sitting. God save the United States and this Honorable Court!” The marshal of the U.S. Supreme Court sang out the traditional chant on June 12, 1967, the last day of the 1966–1967 term. The moment, as always, was charged with reverence and awe as the nine justices took their seats and a silent courtroom waited for the session to begin.

First on the agenda was the traditional introduction of almost one hundred lawyers who were admitted to practice before the Court. Next came the most important part of the session—the handing down of decisions. Thirteen opinions were handed down that day, four by a 5–4 vote. My father, Tom Clark, often a swing voter, joined the majority in three of the four cases but delivered a vehement dissent in the fourth. He also joined a unanimous opinion that struck down Virginia’s miscegenation law. After the decisions were handed down, Chief Justice Warren made an important announcement: it was the last time that Tom Clark would sit on the highest court of the land.

The circumstances of my father’s retirement were unprecedented. He was stepping down from the Court in good health, still in his prime at sixty-seven years old, in order to avoid any appearance of conflict of interest after his son, my brother Ramsey, was appointed U.S. attorney general by President Lyndon Johnson. The only other father-son appointment affecting the Court occurred in 1930 and led to the opposite exchange.

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