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

By Mimi Clark Gronlund | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 14
A Period of Adjustment

The responsibilities are much greater now.

Tom Clark, 1953

THE SUPREME COURT WAS STILL ENJOYING its summer recess when Tom Clark was sworn in as an associate justice, and the new term would not begin until the first Monday in October. It was a good time to get away, so the day after the swearing-in, we left for Santa Monica, California, where Uncle Bob and his family were vacationing. Mother and I persuaded my father to travel by train—a mode of transportation that we both enjoyed and that gave us the opportunity to stop off in Chicago to visit Ramsey and Georgia. Knowing my father’s restless nature, we predicted that he would never make the return trip by train and would find some excuse to fly home.

It seemed the perfect vacation. My father loved the beach—it was the one place where he could relax totally, and he was happy taking walks, lying in the sun, and occasionally dipping in the ocean. Unfortunately, sunny California was cloudy and cool when we arrived, and remained that way. It was the first time in memory that my father had time on his hands, and it was a situation he did not enjoy. Mother described his reaction: “After four years as attorney general and being busy every minute, he was at loose ends. It took everyone in the family to keep Tom busy. He couldn’t sit still for a minute.” A tragic event suddenly ended our vacation and my father’s restlessness. On September 10, Associate Justice Wiley Rutledge suffered a massive stroke and died at the age of fifty-five. Mother’s and my prediction that my father would never return home by train came true, for he returned to Washington immediately—via the airlines—to attend Justice Rutledge’s funeral.

Tom Clark’s life as an associate justice had begun, and he received a

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