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Hugo L. Black

Should you send a photograph of the full Court I am confident each Member would sign it for you.

Hugo Lafayette Black, 1886–1971. Senator from Alabama, 1927–1937; Associate Justice, United States Supreme Court, 1937-1971. Rare, extra fine Autograph Note Signed, Hugo L. Black, Washington, D.C., no date [circa 1953].

The ever-gracious Black responds to a collector by sending a handwritten postcard suggesting that he send a photograph for the entire Supreme Court to sign.  In full:  Should you send a photograph of the full Court I am confident each Member would sign it for you.  The best time to send it would be after the Court reconvenes in October.

This piece, accomplished entirely in Black's hand, is rare in our experience.  We recently sold an internal handwritten note from Black to Justice Frank Murphy, but otherwise we have not found any Autograph Note Signed or Autograph Letter Signed among auction records in over 30 years.

Black, a Democrat, was elected to the United States Senate in 1926 and reelected in 1932. In the Senate he strongly supported the New Deal policies of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, including FDR's infamous Court-packing plan. It therefore was not surprising that Roosevelt made Black his first appointment to the Supreme Court. Apoplectic conservatives expressed outrage, but FDR reveled over the furor.

The Senate confirmed Black's appointment to the Supreme Court on August 17, 1937, and he took his seat as an Associate Justice on October 4, 1937. In between, Black found himself embroiled in controversy. Newspapers reported that he had been a member of the Ku Klux Klan. After returning from a short trip to Europe, Black delivered a national radio address explaining his reasons for joining, but soon resigning from, the Klan. In time the controversy subsided.

One of the Court's most forceful personalities, Black was an absolutist on the First Amendment's guarantee of free speech. The constitutional directive that "Congress shall make no law" abridging the freedom of speech, he insisted, meant just that. Black was often labeled an "activist" because of his willingness to review legislation that arguably violated constitutional provisions. His philosophical debate with Justice Felix Frankfurter and, later, Justice John Marshall Harlan lasted throughout his career on the bench.

Black served until his resigned on September 17, 1971, following a debilitating stroke. He died just eight days later on September 25, 1971.

This card has a sticker in the blank upper left corner of the address side showing that it was previously authenticated by a third-party authenticator.  Otherwise it is in extra fine condition.  Justice Black has penned and signed it in black fountain pen. 




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