History In Ink®  Historical Autographs


Harold H. Burton

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Nice inscribed, signed photo of Burton a month into his Senate term

Harold Hitz Burton, 18881964.  Associate Justice, Supreme Court of the United States, 19451958; United States Senator from Ohio, 1941–1945.  Formal 8" x 10" portrait photograph, inscribed and signed “To my friend ʻJamieʼ with appreciation of his candid interest and support Harold H. Burton" and dated 2/18/41.

This is a nice photo of Burton, still relatively youthful at just under age 53, signed the month after he entered the United States Senate.  The mayor of Cleveland, Ohio, where he had practiced law, Burton was elected to the Senate in 1940 and took office January 3, 1941.  He has dated this photograph February 18, 1941.

It was in the Senate where Burton, a Republican, met Missouri Senator Harry S. Truman.  At Trumanʼs urging, in March 1941 the Senate voted to establish the Special Committee to Investigate the National Defense Program—which quickly became known as the Truman Committee, after its chairman—to investigate problems with waste and inefficiency in the military and corruption and profiteering among defense contractors.  The bipartisan committee was composed of mostly junior Senators.  The original seven-member committee was expanded in late 1941, with Burton among a group of three additional Senators appointed.

In 1945, when Justice Owen J. Roberts retired from the Supreme Court, Truman, who by then had become President, decided to appoint a Republican to replace him as a gesture of bipartisanship.  He knew Burton well and announced on September 18, 1945, that he would nominate him for the Court.  Burton was confirmed unanimously the day Truman formally nominated him without either a hearing or floor debate in the Senate.  He was the last serving member of Congress to be appointed to the Supreme Court.

As a Justice, Burton was a moderate.  He supported desegregation and helped to forge the unanimous ruling declaring public school segregation unconstitutional in Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954).  But Burton generally supported the government against individuals on issues involving national security and supported business over labor on economic issues.  He served until Parkinsonʼs disease forced him to retire in 1958.

In 1954, Supreme Court justicesʼ law clerks voted on which of the justices they would choose to preside if they personally were on trial.  They overwhelmingly chose Burton on a Court that included Chief Justice Earl Warren and renowned Justices Hugo L. Black, William O. Douglas, and Felix Frankfurter.

This is a paneled photograph.  Burton has inscribed and signed it in black in the area between the bottom of the image and the edge of the embossed paneling.  There is a small white spot, a scar in the surface of the photo, in the blank background area at the upper left, and the photo has small dings at the right edge, a bend at the upper left corner, and scattered small handling bends that are largely unnoticeable unless the photograph is turned the right way in the light.  Overall the piece is in fine condition.

Unframed.  Please ask us about custom framing this piece.


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