History In Ink®  Historical Autographs


Potter Stewart

Scarce signed formal color portrait photograph of Justice Stewart

Potter Stewart, 1915–1985.  Associate Justice, Supreme Court of the United States, 1958–1981.  Large format color portrait of Justice Stewart inscribed and signed on the mount, For Bob Oakes, with best wishes, / Potter Stewart. 

This is a scarce signed photograph of Justice Stewart, whose position as a swing vote on the 1970s Burger Court gave him considerable influence and power.  Our search of auction records has found only three other single-signed photos of Stewart—none of them in color—offered for sale since 1975.  Stewart is generally found on group photographs of the Supreme Court, signed Supreme Court chambers cards, and souvenir material of various types.

The photo shows Stewart in his judicial robe before a bookcase of law books and the American flag.  It is an 8” x 10” matte finish print mounted to an 11” x 14” backing board.  Stewart has inscribed and signed it to the photographer in blue ballpoint beneath the photograph.

The centrist, cautious Stewart was often a dissenter from liberal Warren Court decisions.  Among them were Engel v. Vitale, 370 U.S. 421 (1962), which held that the state of New York could not compose an official state prayer and require that it be recited in the state’s public schools at the beginning of each school day, even though students were free not to recite it.  Stewart dissented, arguing that the Court “misapplied a great constitutional principle” and that he could not “see how an ‘official religion’ is established by letting those who want to say a prayer say it.”  In Griswold v. Connecticut, 481 U.S. 479 (1965), which held a state statute preventing the use of contraceptives was an unconstitutional violation of the right of privacy that the Court found in a “penumbra” of the Bill of Rights, Stewart dissented, arguing that although the law was “uncommonly silly,” he nevertheless could not hold that it violated the Constitution because he could find no constitutional provision that prohibited it.

President Richard Nixon’s appointment of four conservatives—Chief Justice Warren E. Burger and Associate Justices Harry A. Blackmun, Lewis F. Powell, Jr., and William H. Rehnquist—changed the philosophical landscape of the Supreme Court.  Stewart thus often held sway as the swing vote necessary to forge a majority on the 1970s Burger Court.  In that position, Stewart became an extremely influential Justice.  For example, he provided the fifth vote to outlaw the death penalty in Furman v. Georgia, 408 U.S. 238 (1972), but announced the opinion for a plurality of three that formed the basis for reinstating the death penalty four years later in Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U.S. 153 (1976).

President Dwight D. Eisenhower appointed Stewart to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, headquartered in Cincinnati, in 1954.  He elevated him to the Supreme Court in a recess appointment in 1958 to succeed retiring Associate Justice Harold Burton.  The Senate confirmed Stewart’s appointment in 1959.

This photograph is in very fine condition—the nicest we have seen of Stewart.  Back stamps identify “Photograph by Robert S. Oakes” and show “© National Geographic Society,” and a file folder label on the back identifies “Potter Stewart, Associate Justice / Supreme Court of the United States.” 

Unframed.    Please ask us about custom framing this piece.

Click here to see more Supreme Court autographs.






home  |  presidents  |  supreme court  |  american history  |  world history  |  contact us


© History In Ink, L.L.C.




 Registered Dealer # RD281