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Earl Warren

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" . . . combined with a gentle spirit was a patient and uncompromising

determination to save for the future the real story of California

Earl Warren, 1891–1974.  Chief Justice of the United States, 1954–1969.  Typed Letter Signed, Earl Warren, one page, 5¾" x 7¾", with integral leaf attached, on engraved stationery of the Supreme Court of the United States, Washington, D.C., May 11, 1959.

This letter is an excellent example of the personal side of the genial Chief Justice.  Warren, who had previously served as Governor of California, sends condolences to Florine Wenzel and her brother, Arthur, on the death of her sister, Caroline, who had lived with her.  Caroline Wenzel, who died on March 24, 1959, at age 73, served 22 years as chief librarian of the California section of the California State Library in Sacramento.  Her time there spanned Warrenʼs three terms as Governor.

The Chief Justice writes, in full:  “I was very saddened to learn of your sisterʼs passing—it is a great loss.  She was a remarkable woman – combined with a gentle spirit was a patient and uncompromising determination to save for the future the real story of California.  We will always be indebted to her for this immeasurable contribution.  /  Mrs. Warren and I send you and your brother all our sympathy in this hour." 

Caroline Wenzel, who was born in 1886, was a trustee of the California Historical Society and a member of the Sacramento Historic Landmarks Commission. She joined the California State Library staff in 1914 and served continuously until she retired in 1952.  Upon her retirement, then-Governor Warren wrote to her:  "You have reason to take pride in the fact that your efforts have contributed tremendously to the creation of the great fund of knowledge which is now available to all who would know the story of our great state." 

Warren, the 1948 Republican vice presidential nominee, resigned as Governor to accept appointment by President Dwight D. Eisenhower as Chief Justice.  As Chief Justice, Warren achieved unanimity to rule racial segregation in public schools unconstitutional in Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954).  Brown was the most famous, and arguably was the most consequential, of the Warren Courtʼs groundbreaking decisions in the fields of civil rights and civil liberties. Following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Warren reluctantly chaired the presidential commission that investigated the murder and concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone.  Warren retired from the Court in 1969.

Warren has signed this letter in his typical blue fountain pen.  The letter has one normal mailing fold that affects one line of the text but not Warrenʼs bold signature.  The letter has a partially erased old dealer pencil mark in the blank upper right corner and additional dealer pencil notations on the back of the integral leaf, affecting nothing.  Overall the letter is in very fine condition.


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