|Fred M. Vinson |
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Jean Baker Henrich
At the time of his nomination, the nation's highest court was being harshly criticized for the feuding among the justices and the perception of politics within the court. In the midst of what many believed to be one of the low points in the court's history The New York Times editorialized:
"The Supreme Court, like any human institution, has its bad moments. It has
lately had a good many such. It does not stand as high in popular respect as it
did. Under Chief Justice Vinson it should have a chance to climb back on
the high bench--the loftiest and most responsible judicial bench in the
world--and resume its task of interpreting the Constitution. Liberals and
conservatives on the Court there will still be, but we may hope that the clash
of their philosophies will now be dignified and fruitful. Mr. Vinson has his
The Supreme Court members at the beginning of the Brown case. Front row, left to right: Felix Frankfurter, Hugo Black, Fred Vinson, Stanley Reed, and William O. Douglas. Back row: Tom Clark, Robert Jackson, Harold Burton, and Sherman Minton.
(Courtesy of Supreme Court of the United States)
Vinson was unable to end all of the bickering on the court. Moreover, his death in 1953 makes it impossible to know if Vinson could have led the court through the Brown decision in 1954, At least one biographer argues that the unanimous decisions of the Vinson Court regarding race made the Brown decision possible.
The Fred Vinson Collection is comprised of over 400 boxes of correspondence and legal papers and over 200 photographs. Twenty-four oral history interviews regarding Vinson's life and career are also available in the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History.
For further information see:
James E. St. Clair and Linda C Gugin, Chief Justice Fred M. Vinson of Kentucky: A Political Biography