CHAPTER 16
CHOOSING
A JUSTICE

FROM THE BEGINNING of his presidency Roosevelt had given great consideration as to whom he would nominate for the Court. But much as he may have wanted, he could not get around his promise to appoint his Senate wheelhorse Joe Robinson. Robinson’s death meant that Roosevelt had to choose carefully. The sharply divided Senate “had relapsed into a mood of seething irritability from which another great rebellion could easily flare up.” The sweltering weather contributed. Dire physical consequences were predicted if the session lasted much longer. One newsman noted “the ragequavers of the voices” of legislators as they “snap at each other in floor debates” and bite the heads off secretaries, prompting him to report “a new high in headless… secretaries.”

At the end of July Roosevelt said that he was exploring the possibility of making the appointment after the Senate had adjourned. But that changed once some senators murmured threats. At Roosevelt’s request Attorney General Cummings and Solicitor General Reed searched “the whole judiciary” and bar for possible appointees, Reed recalled. “They were all canvassed and discussed.” (Cummings could have had the appointment if he wished, but told Roosevelt he did not want it.) A list of fifty-four names was assembled quickly. Included were federal judges, eminent law professors, leading liberals and loyal Democrats.

Almost daily in early August Cummings quietly called on Roosevelt at the White House. They first laid down their specifications for the ideal appointee: a thumping New Dealer, easily confirmable and reasonably young, and from the South or the West since neither section was well represented on the Court. Each day they cut more names. Within a week seven names

-233-

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Hugo Black: A Biography
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface to the Second Edition xi
  • Prologue- The Funeral xiii
  • I- The Early Years 1
  • Chapter 1- The Hill Country 3
  • Chapter 2- Birmingham 23
  • Chapter 3- Prosecutor 38
  • Chapter 4- Trial Lawyer 54
  • Chapter 5- The Parish House Murder 71
  • Chapter 6- The Hooded Order 89
  • Chapter 7- To the Senate 101
  • II- The Senate Years 123
  • Chapter 8- The Freshman 125
  • Chapter 9- "I Changed after I Got to Washington" 143
  • Chapter 10- A New Deal for Workers 154
  • Chapter 11- Cases and Depressions 167
  • Chapter 12- The Investigator Lobbyists and Public Utilities 175
  • Chapter 13- Portrait of a New Dealer 195
  • Chapter 14- Court-Packing and Working Hours 205
  • Chapter 15- "An Absolute Anomaly" 220
  • III- To the Supreme Court 231
  • Chapter 16- Choosing a Justice 233
  • Chapter 17- Hiding the Robes 247
  • IV- The Court Years, 1937–1949 265
  • Chapter 18- Junior Justice 267
  • Chapter 19- Finding His Niche 280
  • Chapter 20- One Judge, Two Courts 299
  • Chapter 21- "Hardships Are Part of War" 312
  • Chapter 22- Feuds and Allies 320
  • Chapter 23- Bombshell from Nuremberg 333
  • Chapter 24- The Great Design of a Written Constitution" 357
  • Chapter 25- Struggles 369
  • Chapter 26- In the Family 385
  • V- The Court Years, 1949–1962 403
  • Chapter 27- The Darkling Plain 405
  • Chapter 28- The Worst of Days 417
  • Chapter 29- Brown V. Board of Education 434
  • Chapter 30- "Books Are My Friends" 453
  • Chapter 31- The Justice Takes a Bride 465
  • Chapter 32- The People’s Teacher 478
  • Chapter 33- "There Are ‘Absolutes’ in Our Bill of Rights" 496
  • Chapter 34- The First Amendment with Passion 510
  • VI- The Court Years, 1962–1971 523
  • Chapter 35- Triumph 525
  • Chapter 36- Overtaken by Events 546
  • Chapter 37- Continuity and Change 560
  • Chapter 38- Continuity and Change 579
  • Chapter 39- In the Sunset 596
  • Chapter 40- The Grand Finale 621
  • Epilogue- Of Hugo and Me 634
  • Source Notes 641
  • Abbreviations for Sources Frequently Cited 643
  • Manuscript Collections 646
  • Interviews 648
  • Basic Source List 651
  • Notes 656
  • Permissions Acknowledgments 719
  • Index 721
  • About the Author 750
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