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Harlan Fiske Stone

In office
July 3, 1941 – April 22, 1946
Nominated by Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Preceded by Charles Evans Hughes
Succeeded by Fred M. Vinson

In office
February 5, 1925[1] – July 3, 1941
Nominated by Calvin Coolidge
Preceded by Joseph McKenna
Succeeded by Robert H. Jackson

In office
April 7, 1924 – March 1, 1925
Nominated by Calvin Coolidge
Preceded by Harry M. Daugherty
Succeeded by John G. Sargent

Born October 11, 1872(1872-10-11)
New Hampshire,
United States
Died April 22, 1946 (aged 73)
Washington, DC,
United States
Alma mater Amherst College,
Columbia University

Harlan Fiske Stone (October 11, 1872 – April 22, 1946) was an American lawyer and jurist. A native of New Hampshire, he served as the dean of Columbia Law School, his alma mater in the early 20th century. As a member of the Republican Party, he was appointed as the 52nd Attorney General of the United States before becoming an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court in 1925. In 1941, Stone became the 12th Chief Justice of the court, serving until his death in 1946—he was the shortest serving Chief Justice for more than two centuries.[2]


Early years

Birthplace of Harlan Fiske Stone

Stone was born in Chesterfield, New Hampshire, to Fred L. and Ann S. (Butler) Stone. He prepared at Amherst High School, and graduated Phi Beta Kappa[3] from Amherst College in 1894.

From 1894 to 1895 he was the submaster of Newburyport High School. From 1895 to 1896 he was an instructor in history at Adelphi Academy in Brooklyn, New York. He also received his M.A. from Amherst College in 1897.[4]

Legal career

Stone, having attended Columbia Law School from 1895 to 1898, received an LL.B. and was admitted to the New York bar in 1898.[4] Stone practiced law in New York City, initially as a member of the firm Satterlee, Sullivan & Stone, and later a partner in the firm Sullivan & Cromwell. From 1899 to 1902 he lectured on law at Columbia Law School; he was a professor there from 1902 to 1905; and eventually became the school's dean from 1910 to 1923.[4] He lived in The Colosseum (apartment building) near campus.

In 1924, he was appointed United States Attorney General by his Amherst classmate and then-President Calvin Coolidge. As Attorney General, Stone was responsible for the appointment of J. Edgar Hoover as head of the Department of Justice's Bureau of Investigation[5], which was to become the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

On January 5, 1925, Stone was appointed an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court to a seat vacated by Joseph McKenna, becoming Coolidge's only appointment to the Court. He was confirmed by the United States Senate on February 5, and received his commission the same day.[4]

During the 1932–1937 Supreme Court terms, Stone, along with Justices Brandeis and Cardozo, was considered a member of the Three Musketeers, which was considered to be the liberal faction of the Supreme Court. The three were highly supportive of President Roosevelt's New Deal programs, which many of the other Supreme Court Justices opposed. For example, he wrote for the court in United States v. Darby, 312 U.S. 100 (1941), which upheld challenged provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. Stone also authored the Court's opinion in United States v. Carolene Products Co., 304 U.S. 144 (1938), which, in its famous "Footnote 4," provided a roadmap for judicial review in the post-Lochner v. New York era.

Stone's support of the New Deal brought him in Roosevelt's favor, and on June 12, 1941, the President elevated him to Chief Justice, a seat vacated by Charles Evans Hughes. Stone was confirmed by the United States Senate on June 27, and received his commission on July 3. He remained in this position for the rest of his life.[4]


Chief Justice

As Chief Justice, Stone spoke for the Court in upholding the President's power to try Nazi saboteurs by military tribunals in Ex parte Quirin, 317 U.S. 1 (1942). The court's handling of this case has been the subject of scrutiny and controversy.[6]

Stone also wrote one of the major opinions in establishing the standard for state courts to have personal jurisdiction over litigants in International Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310 (1945).

As Chief Justice, Stone described the Nuremberg court as "a fraud" to Germans.[7]

In 1946, at the age of 73, Stone died of a cerebral hemorrhage that struck on the bench as he read his dissent in Girouard v. United States, 328 U.S. 61 (1946). (He opposed overturning precedents that would have barred a Seventh-day Adventist from being naturalized as a U.S. citizen if he refused to take up military arms during wartime despite being willing to serve as a conscientious objector.) He is the only Supreme Court Justice to have died during an open court session.

Stone was the fourth Chief Justice that had previously served as an Associate Justice, and the second to have served both positions consecutively. (John Rutledge and Charles Evans Hughes had previously retired from Court before being reappointed to Chief Justice.) To date, Justice Stone is the only justice to have physically filled all nine seats on the bench, having incrementally moved "seniority" positions from most junior Associate Justice to most senior Associate Justice and finally to Chief Justice.

Other activities

Stone was the director of the Atlanta & Charlotte Air Line Railroad Company, the president of the Association of American Law Schools, and a member of the American Bar Association.

He was awarded an honorary master of arts degree from Amherst College in 1900, and an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Amherst in 1913. Yale awarded him an honorary doctor of laws degree in 1924, with Columbia and Williams each awarding the same honorary degree in 1925.

Stone married Agnes E. Harvey in 1899. Their children were Lauson H. Stone and the mathematician Marshall H. Stone. Stone is buried at Rock Creek Cemetery in the Petworth neighborhood of Washington, D.C.[8][9][10][11] His burial is aid to be "quite neighborly with other Justices even after death." Four justices buried in Rock Creek "are essentially paired off." Justice Willis Van Devanter is in a family plot within 40 yards of the senior John Marshall Harlan. Chief Justice and Mrs. Harlan Fiske Stone have a "handsome memorial" within 25 yards of Stephen Johnson Field's "imposing black obelisk".[10]


  • Abraham, Henry J. (1992). Justices and Presidents: A Political History of Appointments to the Supreme Court (3rd ed.). New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-506557-3.  
  • Attorney General biographies, Harlan Fiske Stone, United States Department of Justice.
  • Cushman, Clare (2001). The Supreme Court Justices: Illustrated Biographies, 1789–1995 (2nd ed.). (Supreme Court Historical Society, Congressional Quarterly Books). ISBN 1568021267.  
  • Frank, John P. (1995). Friedman, Leon; Israel, Fred L.. eds. The Justices of the United States Supreme Court: Their Lives and Major Opinions. Chelsea House Publishers. ISBN 0791013774.  
  • Galston, Miriam. 1995. "Activism and Restraint: The Evolution of Harlan Fiske Stone's Judicial Philosophy." Tulane Law Review 70 (November).
  • Hall, Kermit L., ed (1992). The Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court of the United States. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195058356.  
  • Konefsky, Samuel Joseph. 1945. Chief Justice Stone and the Supreme Court. (Reprint, 1971. New York: Hafner).
  • Mason, Alpheus Thomas, Harlan Fiske Stone: Pillar of the Law. New York, Viking Press, 1956. ISBN 0670369977; ISBN 978-0670369973[12]
  • Oyez project, Official Supreme Court media, Harlan Fiske Stone.
  • Rehnquist, William H. (1998). All the Laws but One: Civil Liberties in Wartime. New York: William Morrow & Co. ISBN 0-688-05142-1.  
  • Stone, Harlan Fiske. 2001. Law and Its Administration. Union, N.J.: Lawbook Exchange.
  • Urofsky, Melvin I., Division and Discord: The Supreme Court under Stone and Vinson, 1941-1953 (University of South Carolina Press, 1997) ISBN 1570031207.
  • Urofsky, Melvin I. (1994). The Supreme Court Justices: A Biographical Dictionary. New York: Garland Publishing. pp. 590. ISBN 0815311761.  


See also

External links

Legal offices
Preceded by
Harry M. Daugherty
Attorney General of the United States
Succeeded by
John G. Sargent
Preceded by
Joseph McKenna
Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court
Succeeded by
Robert H. Jackson
Preceded by
Charles Evans Hughes
Chief Justice of the United States
Succeeded by
Fred M. Vinson


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