1971 September 17

Justice Hugo Black, Civil Liberties Giant, Retires from the Supreme Court


Justice Hugo Black served on the Supreme Court for 34 years, making him the fifth-longest-serving Justice. He is regarded as one of the greatest civil libertarians ever to serve on the Court. His appointment in 1937 was almost derailed by revelations that, as a young politician in Alabama, he had been a member of the Ku Klux Klan (September 14, 1937). He survived that crisis and went on to become a staunch supporter of racial justice on the Court.

Black is perhaps most famous for his belief that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth incorporated all of the protections of the Bill of Rights. He argued “total incorporation,” most notably in Adamson v. California, on June 23, 1947. Black is also famous for introducing the concept of a “wall of separation” between church and state, which he did in the case of Everson v. Board of Education on February 10, 1947.

Read: Howard Ball and Philip J. Cooper, Of Power and Right: Hugo Black, William O. Douglas, and America’s Constitutional Revolution (1992)

Watch “Justice Black and the Bill of Rights”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HAgQdeup2v0

Learn more: Steve Suits, Hugo Black of Alabama: How His Roots and Early Career Shaped The Great Champion of the Constitution (2005)

Learn more about Hugo Black’s life and career: http://www.encyclopediaofalabama.org/face/Article.jsp?id=h-1848

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