Earl Warren

(1891—1974) American judge

Quick Reference

(b. Los Angeles, 19 Mar. 1891; d. Washington, DC, 9 July 1974)

US; Governor of California 1942–53, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court 1953–69 Educated at the University of California in Berkeley, Warren practised law and became district attorney. He served as Attorney-General of California 1939–42. In 1942 he was elected Governor of California and was re-elected in 1946 and 1950. He was a very successful Governor as California boomed during the Second World War and in post-war years, enabling state expenditure to increase while taxes were lowered. He promoted the development of higher education in California. Although a moderate Republican he was not particularly liberal on issues of civil liberties. In particular, he supported the removal of Japanese Americans during the Second World War from their homes to camps inland in California.

In 1948 he was selected by Thomas Dewey as vice-presidential candidate on the Republican ticket. Since President Truman appeared to be extremely unpopular and the Democratic party was badly split, Republican victory and his election as Vice-President of the United States seemed assured. Surprisingly, however, Truman won reelection and the Dewey–Warren Republican ticket went down to defeat.

In 1952 he supported Dwight D. Eisenhower for the Republican nomination for president in Eisenhower's contest with Robert Taft. His support for Eisenhower was crucial in Eisenhower's success in winning the Republican nomination. In 1953, when a vacancy occurred for Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Eisenhower appointed him to the post.

He became celebrated as a reforming liberal Chief Justice. In 1954, the Supreme Court ruling in the case of Brown v. The Board of Education declared segregation in schools to be unconstitutional and the court ordered the integration of schools as rapidly as practical. Other liberal rulings concerned reappointment of state legislatures on the basis of one person one vote and protection of the rights of the accused in criminal cases. He believed that the court should interpret the constitution in a manner which reflected contemporary political realities rather than rigidly adhering to narrow legal precedents. As Chief Justice he exercised his political skills to achieve a consensus on the court for his legal philosophy.

Subjects: Law.

Reference entries

See all related reference entries in Oxford Index »