Tag Archives: Irene Jackson

Jackson List: Birthday Reading (1938)

Today marks the 126th anniversary of Robert Houghwout Jackson’s 1892 birth, in his family’s farmhouse in Spring Creek Township, Warren County, Pennsylvania.

It seems that on many a February 13, Robert Jackson did nothing special, and nothing special happened to him.

Jackson did have an unusual experience on this date in 1938—eighty years ago today.  He then was Assistant Attorney General of the United States, heading the Antitrust Division.  He also had been nominated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to become the Solicitor General of the United States, succeeding Stanley Reed who had been appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court.  Jackson’s Senate confirmation hearing had begun in late January, and on February 13th he was in the midst of testifying, ultimately over three days, in a hearing that was thorough, very substantive, and sometimes contentious.  (To boil it down, some Senators were concerned that Jackson was a radical threat to American constitutional law and capitalist freedom and, related, that he was rising to become a leading force in the Democratic Party and, perhaps, presidential material in 1940, when it was expected that F.D.R. would not seek a third term.)  Jackson also had, in the previous week, been part of arguing before the Supreme Court in defense of the constitutionality of the Public Utility Holding Company Act, a major New Deal law.

On Sunday, February 13, 1938, his 46th birthday, Robert Jackson was the subject of a New York Times Sunday Magazine profile article, “Jackson Sets Forth His Political Philosophy.”  The article is online here, readable in full text by Times subscribers (but, alas, behind a paywall for non-subscribers).

The writer, Felix J. Belair, Jr., was The Times’s chief White House correspondent.  Belair seems to have interviewed Jackson for the article—it contains extensive quotations from him, plus two photographs.

I regard the article as strong personal profile journalism.  It is distinctly pro-Jackson, published at a moment when he was a well-publicized, controversial nominee in the middle of a Senate confirmation battle.  It also is an article that contains some of what we call political spin, and some dubious stories.  The article reports:

  • Jackson has no law degree;
  • He has many friends but few intimates;
  • He once made Justice James C. McReynolds, not generally a jovial figure on the Supreme Court bench, laugh during an oral argument;
  • Jackson defends FDR as working to make the private enterprise system work;
  • Jackson believes that people will not accept waves of unemployment; they must be fed or they will turn to a new political system;
  • His 1934-35 work at the Treasury Department, including his study of wealth concentration, was a basis for the 1935 tax reform law;
  • He is not opposed to productive bigness in companies, just to holding companies that are put together for the purpose of speculating in corporate securities;
  • He believes the U.S. needs a high wage industrial economy;
  • He thinks about the future—one quotation looks ahead to “1960” (when Jackson would have turned 68, but which he did not live to see—he died in 1954);
  • He testified in defense of FDR’s 1937 “Court-packing” proposal;
  • His record in major constitutional arguments before the Supreme Court is 4-4;
  • He is a father, a horseman, and a businessman;
  • He attended Albany Law School but did not receive a degree.  (This is true, but Belair did not report that this was only because the school regarded Jackson, age 20 when he completed all requirements, as too young to receive a degree.  The article also incorrectly states that Jackson did two years of law school course work in one year—a myth that follows him still.  And the article does not mention that in addition to attending Albany Law School, Jackson trained for the bar by apprenticing for two years in a law office.);
  • Jackson’s law practice started in (conservative) Jamestown, New York, where he defended radicals charged with crimes growing out of a street railway strike and, surprisingly, won;
  • He subsequently became counsel to businesses (including in Buffalo, New York, and elsewhere, which Belair did not mention);
  • Jackson loves horses:  they were central to his farm boyhood in Spring Creek; he owns a horse farm in Jamestown; he lives with his wife Irene, daughter Mary, and horses on a large property in Maryland;
  • He works late and rides early, often with Mary, sometimes trying out on her, or on his horse (more amenable?), speeches that he is preparing;
  • He and Irene also have a son, William (then a Yale College freshman).  (Belair reported that Jackson hoped Bill would become a lawyer, but in fact, at least by the time Bill was finishing college, Jackson was open to Bill pursuing whatever career path he wished—and he did then go to law school and became a very accomplished lawyer.);
  • Jackson likes to talk about his ancestors, including his great-grandfather Elijah Jackson, the first white settler of Spring Creek;
  • His middle name, Houghwout, is a family name, from ancestors who were early Dutch settlers New Amsterdam;
  • Jackson’s family politics:  Andrew Jackson Democrats;
  • He never sought political office.  (That is largely true, unless one counts, unreported here, his election in young adulthood to country political organization office.);
  • He was appointed corporation counsel in Jamestown by a Republican mayor (which is true—Mayor Sam Carlson was a smart, liberal Republican);
  • Jackson came to Washington at the personal request of FDR.  (This might be an exaggeration of Roosevelt’s personal role in Jackson’s recruitment to the New Deal.);
  • Jackson offers blunt criticism of the bar (the legal profession), including for its conservatism and opposition to government reform;
  • He has critics and enemies but also many friends and admirers;
  • He has been mentioned in the past for numerous offices, including the Supreme Court, the U.S. Senate, and the Governorship of New York;
  • He has no idea what future will bring—maybe just a return to practicing law in Jamestown.

I assume that Jackson, on that Sunday morning, got a copy of The Times and read Belair’s profile piece.  I bet that Jackson mostly liked it.  I bet more that he didn’t spend a lot of time on it, and that if the weather was good enough he spent more time that day on horseback.

For additional Jackson Birthday reading, here are some previous Jackson Birthday-related posts:

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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: 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: Albany Wedding (1916)

In summer 1911, Robert H. Jackson was a nineteen-year-old high school graduate who was working to become a lawyer.  He had spent the past year as an apprentice to two Jamestown, New York, lawyers (one of whom was Jackson’s distant relative by his widowed grandmother’s late in life remarriage).

To complement that preparation, Jackson decided to spend the coming academic year as a student at Albany Law School.  It was a strong, independent, long-established law school with a two-year academic program.  It decided, in admitting Jackson, to give him credit for his year as a law apprentice—in effect, Albany admitted Jackson to its “senior” class as a transfer student.

At Albany Law School, Robert Jackson was a serious, very successful student.  He also had a social life.  A classmate introduced his cousin, Irene Alice Gerhardt of Kingston, New York, to Jackson.  She, a year-plus older than he, was a business (secretarial) school graduate who worked as a stenographer in New York State’s excise department.  She was a smart and quick witted, literary, athletic, and strikingly beautiful—and Robert Jackson fell in love.  They dated, including on ice skates at Albany’s Washington Park.  They attended dances.  She was Jackson’s date at Albany Law School’s graduation in June 1912.

Following that academic year, Jackson returned to western New York while Miss Gerhardt remained in Albany.  He resumed apprenticing for the Jamestown lawyers, who let him take on increasing responsibilities.  In 1913, when he had reached the required age of twenty-one, Jackson took and passed New York’s bar examination and was admitted to law practice.  He then commenced solo practice in Jamestown.  He struggled at first but soon attracted local notice and paying clients, then higher profile clients and cases, growing regional renown, and, in time, a variety of offers to practice with others.

As Jackson established himself professionally, he also continued to court Irene Gerhardt on the other side of New York State.  They wrote many letters.  Each visited the other occasionally, with chaperones present of course—Irene came to meet Jackson’s family in Frewsburg, New York, his boyhood home south of Jamestown, for example, and at least once he spent the Christmas holidays with Irene and her mother Margaret Gerhardt, a widow who had moved to Albany.

Mrs. Gerhardt, at first concerned that Jackson was “too skinny,” apparently came to approve of him.  As 1916 began, she announced her daughter Irene’s engagement to Mr. Jackson, and that their wedding would take place in the springtime.

RHJ & IGJ in Spring Creek (front)

On Monday, April 24, 1916—one hundred years ago today, which then was the day following Easter Sunday—Irene Gerhardt (age 25) and Robert Jackson (age 24) were married in St. Peter’s Protestant Episcopal Church, a grand edifice at State and Lodge Streets in Albany.  The Reverend Dr. Charles C. Harriman, rector of the church, officiated.  The ceremony, held at noontime, was a small one.  Frank H. Mott, the Jamestown lawyer to whom Jackson was distantly related and for whom he apprenticed, was his protégé’s best man (and Mott gave the bride, as a wedding gift, a book on how to keep house.)  Irene wore a blue traveling suit and hat and carried flowers.  Her sister Elizabeth (Betty) was her bridesmaid.

Following the wedding, Mrs. Gerhardt hosted a luncheon at her Albany home for the newlyweds.

Later that afternoon, the Jacksons left on a honeymoon trip to New York City and points south, including Washington, D.C.

In June 1916, they became Jamestown residents.  They soon moved to Buffalo, where Robert practiced law during 1917 and 1918.  They returned to Jamestown that fall, when Irene was expecting their first child (their son William Eldred Jackson).  Soon he had a sister (Mary Margaret Jackson).

The Jacksons lived in Jamestown fulltime for about fifteen more years.  During those years, they returned to Albany regularly to visit Irene’s mother.

And in 1934, of course, they returned to Washington, when President Roosevelt nominated and the Senate confirmed Robert H. Jackson’s first (of five) appointments to high federal office.

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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: President Eisenhower & Justice Jackson’s Funeral (1954)

This post, tweaked and with some citation footnotes added, now is on the Jackson List archive site in “book look” 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/.

Jackson List: A Justice Back, A Justice Welcomed, A Justice Away (September 1945)

This post, including images of Justice Felix Frankfurter’s September 19, 1945, three-page handwritten letter to new Justice Harold H. Burton, now is on the Jackson List archive site in “book look” PDF file form.

Jackson List: Fortieth Wedding Anniversary (1945)

This post, tweaked a little and containing a few footnotes and a photograph of the Roosevelts with Princes Juliana, now is on the Jackson List archive site in “book look” PDF file form.