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Supreme Court Justices

John Catron (1786-1865)

It is believed that John Catron was born in Pennsylvania in 1786, although biographers remain uncertain. He was raised in Virginia and Kentucky, and at 21 married Mary Childress. Catron then moved to Tennessee and fought under the command of Andrew Jackson during the War of 1812. After the end of the war, Catron began practicing law in Tennessee (his formal training in law was slight at best). By 1824, Catron was a member of Tennessee's Court of Errors and Appeals, its highest court. He became its Chief Justice in 1831. The Court was eliminated by the Tennessee legislature in 1834, and Catron practiced law for two years. Along with William Smith, whose nomination was not confirmed by the Senate, Catron was nominated to the Supreme Court by Andrew Jackson on March 3, 1837, Jackson's last full day as President. Catron was a member of the Court for 28 years until his death on May 30, 1865, less than two months after the end of the Civil War.

A southerner, Catron supported the institution of slavery, and joined the majority's opinion in Dred Scott v. Sandford. He opposed secession, and urged Tennessee remain in the Union.