Tag Archives: inauguration

Jackson List: Resignation Offer, Presidential Response (1941)

In January 1940, President Franklin D. Roosevelt nominated his number two official in the United States Department of Justice, Solicitor General Robert H. Jackson, to move up into the Department’s top job.  It was becoming vacant due to the President’s simultaneous appointment of Attorney General Frank Murphy to become an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the U.S.

The U.S. Senate swiftly confirmed the appointments.  President Roosevelt signed Jackson’s commission and he was sworn in as Attorney General on January 18, 1940.

Later that year, war engulfed the European continent.  By June, the United Kingdom stood alone as unconquered by Nazi Germany.  The U.S. pursued significant rearmament, provided desperately needed aid to the U.K., and reinstituted military conscription.  The prospect that world war would engulf the U.S. was real and alarming.  And in November, President Roosevelt was reelected to an unprecedented third term.

In January 1941, as Inauguration Day approached, Attorney General Jackson was battling illness.  In the end, it caused him to miss the inauguration ceremony and related events.  But Jackson made it a point, on January 16, to dictate, sign, and send this a formal letter to the White House:

            My dear Mr. President:

I hereby present my resignation as

Attorney General of the United States effective

at your pleasure.

                        You are about the enter a new admin-

istration significant because of the problems peculiar

to these rapidly moving times.  It seems appropri-

ate to relinquish a position for which I was

chosen in very different conditions and for

qualifications which may no longer be appropri-

ate.

            It would be impossible in words to

express my appreciation for the honor of your

confidence.

                        Respectfully yours,

                        [/s/ Robert H. Jackson]

President Roosevelt responded two days later by writing, in longhand, this note:

Dear Bob

            I do hope you’re feeling

better – Don’t try to attend

anything Monday [January 20] unless the

M.D. really says yes.

            Thank you for your note.  It

can only have one answer:

Stay put

                        Affec.

                        FDR

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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.

—————–

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.