Frederick M. Vinson (January 22, 1890 - September 8, 1953)

Frederick Moore VinsonFrederick Moore Vinson served the United States in all three branches of government and was the most prominent member of the Vinson political family. In the legislative branch, he was an elected member of the United States House of Representatives from Louisa, Kentucky, for twelve years. In the executive branch, he was the Secretary of Treasury under President Harry S. Truman. In the judicial branch, he was the thirteenth Chief Justice of the United States, appointed by President Truman.

Vinson took the oath of office as Chief Justice on June 24, 1946. President Truman had nominated his old friend after Harlan Fiske Stone died. His appointment came at a time when the Supreme Court was deeply fractured, both intellectually and personally. One faction was led by Justice Hugo Black, the other by Justice Felix Frankfurter. Some of the justices would not even speak to one another. Vinson was credited with patching this fracture, at least on a personal level.

In his time on the Supreme Court, he wrote 77 opinions for the court and 13 dissents. His most dramatic dissent was when the court voided President Truman's seizure of the steel industry during a strike in a June 3, 1952 decision, Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer. His final public appearance at the court was when he read the decision not to review the conviction and death sentence of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. After Justice William O. Douglas granted a stay of execution to the Rosenbergs at the last moment, Chief Justice Vinson sent special flights out to bring vacationing justices back to Washington in order to ensure the execution of the Rosenbergs. The Vinson court also gained infamy for its refusal to hear the appeal of the Hollywood Ten in their 1947 contempt of congress charge. As a result, all ten would serve a year in jail for invoking their First Amendment right of free association before J. Parnell Thomas and the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). During his tenure as Chief Justice, one of his law clerks was future Associate Justice Byron White.¹

Frederick M. Vinson Quotes

"Wars are not acts of God. They are caused by man, by man-made institutions, by the way in which man has organized his society. What man has made, man can change."

"The problems we face are human problems and therefore are capable of human solutions."

"There is a vast difference - a constitutional difference - between restrictions imposed by the state which prohibit the intellectual commingling of students, and the refusal of individuals to commingle where the state presents no such bar."

Noteworthy Sites

¹ Frederick M. Vinson - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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