Tag Archives: FDR

Jackson List: Inaugurations and Change (1949 & 1953)

On the morning of January 20, 1949, Justice Robert H. Jackson and his wife Irene drove in to Washington from their Hickory Hill home in McLean, Virginia.

At the Supreme Court building, they met their friends Floyd Odlum and Jacqueline Cochran (a businessman and a famous aviatrix and businesswoman, respectively), who were visiting from California.  Later, they crossed First Street, Northeast, to the U.S. Capitol.  They sat – separately, Jackson with fellow justices, Irene with Floyd and Jackie – in V.I.P. seats and watched the inauguration of President Harry S. Truman.  Justice Jackson wore a small black cap, custom-made, from Livingston’s, a store in downtown Washington.

In Chicago, a young woman named Betty Stevens was one of many who watched the 1949 presidential inauguration ceremony on television.  She was especially pleased to see two Supreme Court justices, Jackson and Wiley Rutledge, “walking along gaily chatting.”  Her husband, Chicago attorney John Paul Stevens, had clerked for Justice Rutledge a year earlier, and Mrs. Stevens was happy to see that he appeared to “be in excellent health and spirits.”

Nearly four years later, General (ret.) Dwight D. Eisenhower was elected to succeed President Truman.  He, a Republican, would become president after twenty years of presidents (Franklin D. Roosevelt, and then Truman) from the Democratic Party.

In late 1952, Jackie Cochran wrote to her friend Bob Jackson.  She asked if she and Floyd could be Jackson’s guests at the impending Eisenhower presidential inauguration.

Jackson, after checking, wrote back to her in late December 1952:

Dear Jackie:

I have inquired of the Marshal [of the Supreme Court] and so far as I can learn we can carry out this year the same program that we did at the last inauguration – which was that you and Floyd came to the Court and we went from here together.  I think that will work out this time, although it may be something different.  You know the slogan, “It’s time for a change,” and they do have to provide this year for two Cabinets and two sets of officers, incoming and outgoing, and two Presidents’ parties, whereas before there was only one.

The Inauguration Day, January 20, 1953, was indeed different.  On that Tuesday morning, the Supreme Court had an official session.  The justices took the bench and admitted attorneys to the Supreme Court bar.  The Court then adjourned to attend, as it had four years earlier, the inauguration as a body.

At the oath-taking ceremony, the Justices, all bare-headed, walked in procession from the Capitol rotunda to the platform, in pairs according to their seniority on the Court.  Justice Jackson walked with Justice William O. Douglas, smiling and talking.

Later that afternoon, the justices returned to the Court and reconvened briefly in official session.  They did not hear oral argument in any of the ten cases they had, the previous day, put on call for January 20th.  They sent “home” the attorneys who were assembled and prepared to argue those cases, putting them over until the next day.

It appears that Jackson was able to arrange for Floyd Odlum and Jackie Cochran to attend President Eisenhower’s 1953 inauguration.

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This post was emailed to the Jackson List, a private but entirely non-selective email list that reaches many thousands of subscribers around the world. I write to it periodically about Justice Robert H. Jackson, the Supreme Court, Nuremberg and related topics. The Jackson List archive site is http://thejacksonlist.com/.  To subscribe, email me at barrettj@stjohns.edu. Thank you for your interest, and for spreading the word.

Jackson List: Voting for the Last Time (1940)

In early 1940, President Franklin D. Roosevelt was planning, at least to some degree, to return to private life after two terms in office.  Robert H. Jackson was F.D.R.’s newly-appointed United States Attorney General.  Jackson also was, according to private remarks by the President and many New Dealers, and thus according to many press reports that were trial balloons, F.D.R.’s choice to succeed him as the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee, and then in the White House.

Events took other courses.  Many, including very publicly Jackson, urged Roosevelt to seek a third term.  In springtime, Nazi Germany invaded and soon conquered the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, and France.  In late June, the Republican Party nominated businessman Wendell Willkie as its presidential candidate.  In July, the Democrats nominated, again, Roosevelt.

That fall, Attorney General Jackson took numerous short trips away from his Washington work to campaign actively—as was legally permitted then—for the President and other Democratic candidates.  In early October, for example, Jackson spoke to a large crowd in Buffalo, New York, once his home.  In this speech, Jackson decried Willkie’s phoniness, noting that “only when he talked to workmen did he find profanity and vulgarity in order,” which lost him “any opportunity he ever had to create anything like unity among the American people.”  In mid-October, Jackson gave a law and politics address in Boston.  Later that month he travelled to Jamestown, New York, his adult hometown, to speak alongside U.S. Senator Robert F. Wagner (NY) at a large Democratic Party rally.  Jackson also spoke that month in Richmond, Virginia, and a number of times from Washington on nationwide radio broadcasts.  In the first days of November, Jackson travelled back to New York State to give political speeches in Binghamton and in Yonkers.

And then, finally, it was time to vote.  On Monday, November 4, 1940, Robert and Irene Jackson travelled from Washington, where they lived in a rented Wardman Park apartment, to Jamestown, where they still owned a house and were registered to vote.  They voted in Jamestown on Tuesday, November 5, 1940—both for Roosevelt and his running mate Henry Wallace, I’m sure.

In Jamestown at that time, Democrats such as the Jacksons were a political minority and usually their candidates lost.  That was true in 1940.  Willkie carried Jamestown by over 1,500 votes, and he won all of Chautauqua County, where Jamestown is located.  Indeed, Republicans across the county won every race.

But that was not true statewide.  Although the race was tight, Roosevelt carried New York State, his home, with 50.5% of the vote.

Nationwide, the race was not so close.  F.D.R. won 54.7% of the popular vote, to Willkie’s 44.8%.  Overall, Roosevelt carried 38 of the 48 States.  He was reelected with 449 electoral votes to Willkie’s 82.

In the new year, President Roosevelt was inaugurated, beginning his unprecedented third term.

Wendell Willkie, to his great credit, went to work for President Roosevelt as an international emissary and adviser.

In July 1941, Robert Jackson also took on a new government position—he was appointed by Roosevelt and confirmed by the Senate to serve as an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, and thus he resigned his position as Attorney General.

Justice Jackson of course cast many, many votes in the Supreme Court’s conference room, on cases, petitions, and other judicial matters.

But he never again entered a voting booth.  In his view, holding judicial office was a responsibility not to be involved in politics, even at the private level of voting.

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This post was emailed to the Jackson List, a private but entirely non-selective email list that reaches many thousands of subscribers around the world. I write to it periodically about Justice Robert H. Jackson, the Supreme Court, Nuremberg and related topics. The Jackson List archive site is http://thejacksonlist.com/.  To subscribe, email me at barrettj@stjohns.edu. Thank you for your interest, and for spreading the word.

Jackson List: New Month, Quiet; Full Court, Ready (August 1941)

This post, enhanced with an image of Justice Jackson’s Aug. 1941 letter to Justice Douglas, and with some footnotes, now is on the Jackson List archive site in PDF file form.

Jackson List: Four Freedoms, Newly Alive at Seventy-Five

Today marks the 75th anniversary of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s January 6, 1941, State of the Union address—the “Four Freedoms” speech.

In a Jackson List post five years ago (click here), I described the occasion and the speech—and the presence, in the first row of the House chamber, of Attorney General Robert H. Jackson.

I continue to recommend the following resource links, all on the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum website:

In addition, or first, please watch this newly enhanced, audio-synced, High Definition video of that key passage in the speech:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qrNDwyj4u1w.

In this post, Paul M. Sparrow, Director of the FDR Library, describes the creation of this new treasure:   http://fdr.blogs.archives.gov/2016/01/06/four_freedoms/.