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Supreme Court Justices

Harold Burton (1888-1964)

Harold Burton was born in Massachusetts in June 1888. His father was the dean of the faculty at MIT. After graduating from Bowdoin College, Burton attended and was graduated from Harvard Law School in 1912.

After law school, Burton moved to Cleveland to practice law. When the United States entered World War I in 1917, Burton joined the Army. He was wounded in combat and received the Purple Heart. Between 1929 and 1945, when he was nominated to the Supreme Court, Burton won elections to the Ohio legislature, the mayoralty of Cleveland, and the United States Senate as a Republican.

The death of FDR in April 1945 made the newly elected Vice-President Harry S Truman President of the United States. Owen J. Roberts resigned from the Court shortly after Truman became President, which gave Truman an immediate opportunity to appoint someone to the Court. Truman chose the Republican Burton for both political and personal reasons.

Burton remained on the Court for 13 years. He was an early vote to declare unconstitutional the doctrine of separate but equal in Brown v. Board of Education, and voted to strike down racially restrictive housing covenants in Shelley v. Kraemer. In the free speech cases concerning Communists, Burton joined opinions rejecting the first amendment claims of the Communist defendants.

Burton retired from the Court in October 1958 suffering from Parkinson's disease. He died in October 1964. He was married to Selma Smith.

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