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Sherman Minton

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“The reason Jimmy Byrnes looks so youthful I think he has been having his prostate massaged."

Sherman Minton, 18901965.  Senator from Indiana, 19351941; Associate Justice, United States Supreme Court, 19491956.  Superb Autographed Letter Signed, Shay Minton, two pages, 5¼" x 6¾", with integral leaf attached, on stationery of the United States Senate, Washington, D.C., [April 25, 1939].  With original mailing envelope addressed in Minton's hand and bearing Minton's printed free frank.

This is a fascinating, candid private letter in which Minton regales his former colleague, ex-Illinois Senator William H. Dieterich, with tales of the Senate.  He drops names—the most prominent one that of then-57-year-old South Carolina Senator James F. Byrnes, a confidant of President Franklin D. Roosevelt who later served as a Supreme Court Justice, Secretary of State, and Governor of South Carolina. 

Minton writes, in full:  “This job of whip is getting me down.  I will have to start growing whiskers to cover up the breaks.  /  The reason Jimmy Byrnes looks so youthful I think he has been having his prostate massaged.  /  Jim Hams [sic] successor arrived yesterday.  He looks like he could be a tough bastard without much effort.  /  McAdoo was in today.  He looks like he might  go for 25 years more and wear out a couple more good women.  /  The old place isn't what it use [sic] to be.  Hurry back & give us a dash of color.

Minton's reference to “Jim Hams successor" is undoubtedly to James M. Slattery (1878–1948), who succeeded Illinois Senator James Hamilton Lewis after Lewis died April 9, 1939.  Slattery was appointed on April 14, some 11 days before Minton mailed this letter, and served until November 1940, when he lost his bid for election to the Senate. The reference to “McAdoo" is to William Gibbs McAdoo, Jr. (1863–1941), the former son-in-law of and Secretary of the Treasury under President Woodrow Wilson, who served as a United States Senator from California 1933–1938. By the time Minton wrote this letter, McAdoo was 65 years old and had been married three times, the last time in 1934 after he and Wilson's daughter Eleanor divorced. 

Minton, a Democrat, was elected to the Senate from Indiana in 1934 and took office in 1935, two years after Dieterich entered the Senate.  Dieterich (18761940), also a Democrat, served a term in the House of Representatives before being elected to the Senate from Illinois in 1932.  Dieterich did not seek reelection in 1938.  Minton served only one term in the Senate, 19351941, and was defeated for reelection. 

Roosevelt made Minton an administrative assistant in the Executive Office of the President for a short time in 1941 before appointing him a judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.  He served as a circuit judge eight years, 19411949, before President Harry S. Truman, a close friend from his days in the Senate, appointed him an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court.  He took the oath of office as a Justice on October 12, 1949, and served until ill health forced him to resign on October 15, 1956.

Minton's autographed letters signed are uncommon—and this one, with such private content, is superb.  Minton has written the first page vertically on the front leaf and the second page vertically down the back of the front leaf and the front of the integral leaf.  Apart from one mailing fold and the fold between the front and integral leaves, the letter is pristine.  With the folds, it is in very fine condition. 

The original mailing envelope bears a pencil notation, apparently in the hand of Dieterich's embarrassed secretary, that "Mr. Minton neglected to mark this letter Personal."  The envelope, with Minton's printed free frank, is toned but cleanly torn open at the top.  Overall is in fine condition.


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