August 17, 1937
Hugo Black of Harlan, Alabama, President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s nominee for the Supreme Court, was confirmed as a justice by the U.S. Senate on this day. During his more than three decades on the court, Black wrote dozens of opinions, many of them dissents that eventually became law. His judicial views about how the Bill of Rights should be applied and the separation of church and state were by and large adopted by the high court. Black joined in the unanimous 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education decision that outlawed racial segregation in public schools. When Black died at the age of 85 he was buried next to his first wife at Arlington Cemetery; a marble bench between their grave markers states, “Here lies a good man.”
Read more at Encyclopedia of Alabama.
A young Hugo Black (back row, center) posing with lifelong friend Barney Whatley (back row, right) and several local residents in Ashland, Clay County, c. late 1890s. (From Encyclopedia of Alabama, courtesy of Alabama Department of Archives and History)
The new associate justice of the Supreme Court, Hugo L. Black, watches as Col. Edward A. Halsey, secretary of the Senate, signs the Senate’s confirmation of the Alabama U.S. senator to the nation’s highest tribunal; Aug. 17, 1937. (Harris & Ewing, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division)
Sen. and Mrs. Hugo L. Black photographed at the Capitol today shortly after Black’s nomination as a member of the Supreme Court was received in the Senate chamber; Aug. 12, 1937. (Harris & Ewing, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division)
During his 34-year tenure on the U.S. Supreme Court, Justice Hugo L. Black (seated in the front row, second from left) issued opinions on some of the most controversial issues of the 20th century, including freedom of speech, school desegregation and separation of church and state. (From Encyclopedia of Alabama, courtesy of U.S. Supreme Court)
Clay County native and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black was responsible for some of the most progressive civil and legal reforms in the 20th century. He is remembered as a tireless advocate for minority rights and as a fierce defender of the First Amendment. (From Encyclopedia of Alabama, Alabama Department of Archives and History)
Portrait of Justice Hugo Black, c. 1937. (Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division)
For more on Alabama’s Bicentennial, visit Alabama 200.