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Harold H. Burton


In office
1941–1945
Preceded by A. Vic Donahey
Succeeded by James W. Huffman

In office
September 22, 1945[1] – October 13, 1958
Nominated by Harry S. Truman
Preceded by Owen Josephus Roberts
Succeeded by Potter Stewart

Born June 22, 1888(1888-06-22)
Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts
Died October 28, 1964 (aged 76)
Washington, D.C.
Nationality American
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Selma Florence Smith, Married 1912
Alma mater Bowdoin College
Religion Unitarian

Harold Hitz Burton (June 22, 1888 – October 28, 1964) served as the 45th mayor of Cleveland, Ohio, a member of the United States Senate and later Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. He was known as a dispassionate jurist who prized equal justice under the law.

Contents

Biography

He was born in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, to Alfred E. Burton and Anna Gertrude Hitz. His father was a Dean at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who was also an explorer. He had accompanied Robert Peary on several expeditions to the North Pole. His mother was a daughter of the first Swiss Consul General to the United States. He was also a second cousin of J. Edgar Hoover on their mothers' side. Their common great-grandparents were Johannes (Hans) Hitz, first Swiss Consul General to the United States, and wife Anna Kohler.

Burton attended Bowdoin College, where he was elected to the Phi Beta Kappa honor society[2] and where his roommate and fellow Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity (Theta chapter) brother was Owen Brewster, who later became a U.S. Senator from Maine. He went on to Harvard Law School, graduating in 1912. After graduating, he practiced law in Ohio. He was a United States Army infantry officer during World War I, seeing heavy action in France and Belgium.

Burton served in the Ohio House of Representatives in 1929 and was the law director of Cleveland, Ohio before being elected Mayor of Cleveland in 1935, running as a Republican. He served until his election as United States Senator in 1941. It was in the Senate that he first met fellow senator Harry S. Truman. Burton served with Truman on the Senate investigative committee that oversaw the U.S. war effort during World War II, and the two got along well. Truman was elected Vice President of the United States in 1944, and assumed the presidency upon the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1945.

When Supreme Court Associate Justice Owen J. Roberts retired later that year, Truman decided to appoint a Republican as a bipartisan gesture. Burton resigned from the Senate on September 30, 1945, when President Truman appointed him to the Court. His nomination was announced to the Senate and confirmed unanimously on the same day, without hearing or debate. Burton served until retiring on October 13, 1958. He suffered from Parkinson's disease in his later years. He died from complications arising from this, kidney failure and pulmonary trouble. According to Chief Justice of the United States Earl Warren's papers, Burton was influential in bringing about the Supreme Court's unanimity in the landmark desegregation case, Brown v. Board of Education.

Burton married Selma Florence Smith in 1912. They had four children: Barbara (Mrs. Charles Weidner), William (who served in the Ohio House of Representatives and was a noted trial lawyer), Deborah (Mrs. Wallace Adler), and Robert (a distinguished attorney and counsel to athletes).

The Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress holds an extensive collection of Burton's personal and judicial papers, including Supreme Court conference notes, which have been widely used by legal historians.

Legacy

Cleveland's Main Avenue Bridge was renamed in his honor in 1986.

Notes

References

Political offices
Preceded by
Harry L. Davis
Mayor of Cleveland
1936–1940
Succeeded by
Edward J. Blythin
United States Senate
Preceded by
A. Vic Donahey
United States Senator (Class 1) from Ohio
1941 – 1945
Succeeded by
James W. Huffman
Legal offices
Preceded by
Owen Josephus Roberts
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States
September 22, 1945 – October 13, 1958
Succeeded by
Potter Stewart
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