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Blackmun, Harry A. (12 November 1908–04 March 1999), Supreme Court justice, was born Harry Andrew Blackmun in Nashville, Illinois, the son of Corwin Manning Blackmun and Theo Reuter Blackmun, whose family owned a flour mill in Nashville. Blackmun grew up in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota, where his father worked in a succession of enterprises, including wholesale and retail businesses, banking, and insurance. Blackmun was raised in a devoutly Methodist family with a strong work ethic. Although he was a serious, hardworking student, he had a healthy sense of humor and a well-rounded personality. He and ...

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Louis Brandeis. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-92924).

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Brandeis, Louis Dembitz (13 November 1856–05 October 1941), "people's attorney" and U.S. Supreme Court justice, “people’s attorney” and U.S. Supreme Court justice, was born in Louisville, Kentucky, the son of Adolph Brandeis, a successful businessman, and Frederika Dembitz. His parents, non-practicing Jews, had quietly supported the unsuccessful Austrian uprising of 1848 and had immigrated to the United States with their families in the wake of the repression and anti-Semitism that followed. Born as Louis David, Louis changed his middle name as a teenager in honor of his uncle, abolitionist lawyer ...

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Pierce Butler. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-105088).

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Butler, Pierce (17 March 1866–16 November 1939), lawyer and U.S. Supreme Court justice, was born in Dakota County, Minnesota, the son of Patrick Butler and Mary Gaffney, farmers. His parents were Irish immigrants who came to the United States in 1848 because of the potato famine. Butler worked during his youth on the family farm and delighted in his parents’ tales of Ireland and their supposed acquaintance with General ...

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Benjamin N. Cardozo. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-104956).

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Cardozo, Benjamin Nathan (24 May 1870–09 July 1938), lawyer and jurist, was born in New York City, the son of Albert Cardozo, a lawyer, and Rebecca Washington Nathan. Cardozo’s mother died when he was nine, his father when he was fifteen. His sister, Ellen, ten years his senior, assumed much of the responsibility for raising him. Cardozo never married but resided with Ellen; she died in 1929 and thereafter he lived alone. The Cardozos were Sephardic Jews, congregants of Shearith Israel (Remnant of Israel), often called the Spanish-Portuguese Synagogue. Rabbi ...

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Catron, John (1781?–30 May 1865), lawyer and Supreme Court justice, was born according to some accounts in Pennsylvania, and according to others in Virginia. The year of his birth is variously given between 1778 and 1787, although his niece reported that before he died Catron told his family he was born in 1781. Nothing is known of his parents. His early life was spent in Virginia. He later moved to Kentucky and then to Tennessee, where in 1807 he married Matilda Childress of Nashville. They had no children....

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Howell Cobb. Daguerreotype from the studio of Mathew B. Brady. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-110081).

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Cobb, Howell (07 September 1815–09 October 1868), lawyer and politician, was born at Cherry Hill in Jefferson County, Georgia, the son of John Addison Cobb, a planter, and Sarah Robinson (Rootes). Enrolling in Franklin College (now the University of Georgia) in Athens, Georgia, in 1829, he graduated in 1834. His college years were marked by his expulsion from school after participating in a riot to protest disciplinary action by the faculty for a minor infraction of leaving campus without permission; he was later readmitted. At the same time, they saw him first show signs of his strong Unionism, for he opposed the nullification movement in South Carolina. On 26 May 1835 he married Mary Ann Lamar; the couple had six children. With marriage Cobb acquired his wife’s sizable estate, including several cotton plantations and some 200 slaves....