Robert Houghwout Jackson

Jackson, Robert Houghwout (houˈət) [key], 1892–1954, associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court (1941–54), b. Spring Creek, Pa. Despite the fact that he did not have a law degree, he was admitted to the bar in 1913 after a brief period of study at Albany law school. In 1934, he was appointed general counsel of the Bureau of Internal Revenue. From 1936 to 1938 he served as assistant attorney general in charge of the antitrust division. A strong advocate of New Deal policies, Jackson became (1938) U.S. solicitor general. In 1940, he became U.S. attorney general, and in 1941 President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed him to the Supreme Court. He went on leave (1945–46) from the bench to be U.S. chief counsel at the Nuremberg war crimes trial. His feud with Justice Hugo L. Black probably eliminated him from consideration for chief justice when Harlan Stone died. His best-known decision is West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette (1943), which struck down statutes that made saluting the flag mandatory for school children, thereby significantly expanding the scope of free speech laid out in the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Known for his eloquent literary style, Jackson defended freedom of religion with particular distinction. He wrote The Struggle for Judicial Supremacy (1940), The Case against the Nazi War Criminals (1945), and The Supreme Court in the American System of Government (1955).

See 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.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Supreme Court: Biographies