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Supreme Court Justices

John Clarke (1857-1945)

John Clarke was born in Ohio on September 18, 1857. He was the only child of Irish Protestants. Clarke read law with his father, and then practiced law with him beginning in 1878. After earning some renown as a trial lawyer in Youngstown, Clarke moved to Cleveland shortly before the turn of the century to represent corporate and railroad interests. But Clarke was not politically beholden to his clients. He twice ran unsuccessfully for Senate as a Democratic Progressive, when Senators were elected by the legislatures of the states. (Direct election of Senators is a creation of the 17th amendment to the Constitution, ratified in 1913.) Before a third run for the Senate began, Clarke was nominated in 1914 to the federal district court by President Woodrow Wilson. Two years later, Charles Evans Hughes resigned from the Court to accept the Republican nomination for President. Clarke was nominated in mid-July, six months after Louis D. Brandeis had been nominated, which led some to fear the influence of progressives on the Court. On the Court for just six years, Clarke regularly aligned himself with Brandeis in supporting legislation. For example, he dissented in the child labor cases (Hammer v. Dagenhart (1918) and Bailey v. Drexel Furniture Co. (1922)) along with Brandeis and Oliver Wendell Holmes. In 1922, at the age of 65, Clarke surprisingly resigned in order to urge the United States enter the League of Nations, one of Wilson's failed efforts.

Clarke never married. He died on March 22, 1945.