Hugo LaFayette Black

Black, Hugo LaFayette, 1886–1971, associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court (1937–71), b. Harlan, Clay co., Ala. He received his law degree from the Univ. of Alabama in 1906. He practiced law and held local offices before serving (1927–37) in the U.S. Senate. As senator he ardently supported New Deal measures, conducted Senate investigations of merchant-marine subsidies (1933) and lobbying (1935), and sponsored (1937) the Wages and Hours bill. His appointment to the Supreme Court by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt met strong opposition from the public and in the Senate because of his earlier membership in the Ku Klux Klan. Black was, however, a staunch defender of civil liberties, and he became the leader of the activists on the Supreme Court, consistently opposing congressional and state violations of free speech and due process. He was also an originalist, relying on a close reading of the Constitution to free the document from years of conservative precedents.

See T. E. Yarbrough, Mr. Justice Black and His Critics (1989); study by V. Hamilton (1972); N. Feldman, Scorpions: The Battles and Triumphs of FDR's Great Supreme Court Justices (2010).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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