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G. Harrold Carswell

In office
May 12, 1969 – April 20, 1970
Nominated by Richard Nixon
Preceded by seat created
Succeeded by Paul Hitch Roney

Born December 22, 1919(1919-12-22)
Irwinton, Georgia
Died July 13, 1992 (aged 72)

George Harrold Carswell (December 22, 1919 – July 13, 1992) was a Federal Judge and an unsuccessful nominee to the United States Supreme Court. He did not use his first name and was called by his middle name, "Harrold" Carswell.


Early years

Carswell was born in Irwinton, Georgia, graduated with a B.A. from Duke University in 1941, and briefly attended the University of Georgia School of Law before joining the United States Navy. He served as a lieutenant in the Naval Reserve and was discharged in 1945 at the end of World War II. Carswell completed his legal education at the Walter F. George School of Law of Mercer University in 1948. Griffin B. Bell, 72nd Attorney General of the United States, was a classmate at Mercer.

In 1948, Carswell unsuccessfully ran for a seat in the Georgia state legislature. He then moved to Tallahassee, Florida, where he worked as a private attorney in from 1948 to 1953. Carswell served as United States Attorney for the Northern District of Florida from 1953 to 1958.

Federal judge

Carswell was nominated for the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida by President Dwight D. Eisenhower on March 6, 1958, to a seat vacated by Dozier A. DeVane. He was confirmed by the United States Senate on March 31, 1958, and received commission on April 10, 1958. He served as chief judge from 1958 to 1969.

Carswell was nominated by President Richard M. Nixon on May 12, 1969, to a new seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit created by 82 Stat. 184. He was confirmed by the United States Senate on June 19, 1969, and received commission on June 20, 1969.

Supreme Court nomination

On January 19, 1970, after Clement Haynsworth was rejected by the U.S. Senate for an appointment to the United States Supreme Court, President Richard Nixon nominated Carswell to be an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court to replace liberal Justice Abe Fortas.[1] Carswell was praised by Southern Senators including Richard B. Russell, Jr., but was criticized by others for the high reversal rate (58%) of his decisions as a District Court Judge.

Civil-rights advocates questioned his civil rights record, citing his voiced support for racial segregation during his unsuccessful election bid in 1948, while Feminists accused him of being an opponent of women's rights. Various feminists, including Betty Friedan, testified before the Senate to oppose his nomination and bore much responsibility for his defeat.[2]

In defense against charges that Carswell was "mediocre", U.S. Senator Roman Hruska (Republican, Nebraska) stated, "Even if he is mediocre, there are a lot of mediocre judges and people and lawyers. They are entitled to a little representation, aren't they, and a little chance?"[3][4] That remark is believed to have backfired and damaged Carswell's cause.

On April 8, 1970, the United States Senate refused to confirm Carswell's nomination to serve on the Supreme Court. The vote was 51 to 45. 17 Democrats and 28 Republicans voted for Carswell. 38 Democrats and 13 Republicans voted against him. President Richard Nixon accused Democrats of having an anti-Southern bias as a result saying, "After the Senate’s action yesterday in rejecting Judge Carswell, I have reluctantly concluded that it is not possible to get confirmation for the judge on the Supreme Court of any man who believes in the strict construction of the constitution as I do, if he happens to come from the South."[1]

Nixon then nominated Minnesota judge Harry Blackmun to fill the Fortas vacancy.[1] Blackmun was later easily confirmed in a 94–0 vote.[5]

Later years

On April 20, 1970, Carswell resigned from his judicial position to enter the political arena. In 1970, he ran unsuccessfully for a seat in the Senate from Florida, losing in the Republican Party primary by a large margin to U.S. Representative William Cramer, who went on to lose the general election to Democrat Lawton Chiles.

In 1976, Carswell was arrested and convicted of battery for advances he made to an undercover police officer in a Florida men's room.[6] Because of this incident, some allege him to be the first homosexual or bisexual nominated to the Supreme Court. [7] Carswell subsequently withdrew from public life.

He returned to the private practice of law and then lived in retirement until his death.

See also


  1. ^ a b c "Nixon's Nominations: 1970 Year in Review,"
  2. ^
  3. ^,9171,942208,00.html
  4. ^
  5. ^ See Warren Weaver Jr., Blackmun Approved, 94-0; Nixon Hails Vote by Senate in The New York Times, May 13, 1970, page 1.
  6. ^ Joyce Murdoch, Deb Price, Courting Justice: Gay Men and Lesbians v. the Supreme Court (2002) p. 187.
  7. ^ Keith Stern, Queers in History (2006), p. 84 (stating of Carswell, "He's the only known homosexual to have been nominated to the Supreme Court, though he was in the closet"); John Wesley Dean, The Rehnquist Choice: The Untold Story of the Nixon Appointment That Redefined the Supreme Court (2001) p. 20.

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