EARL WARREN, 1891 - 1974
From "Earl Warren: The Judge Who Changed America," Jack Harrison Pollack, Prentice-Hall, 1979:
"Earl Warren...will never set the world on fire or even make it smoke; he has the limitations of all Americans of his type with little intellectual background, little genuine depth or coherent political philosophy; a man who has probably never bothered with an abstract thought twice in this life ... no more a statesman in the European sense than Typhoid Mary is Einstein ... ." -John Gunther, 1947, in Inside USA, about California's Governor
Enormously popular, he was California's only three-term (1942-1953) scandal-free governor.
In 1944, Warren declined to be New York Governor Thomas E. Dewey's Republican vice presidential running mate.
In 1948, Warren ran as Dewey's running mate against President Harry S. Truman.
In 1952, Warren wanted the presidential nomination. If Senator Nixon had not deviously deserted him for Eisenhower, or if Robert Taft had deadlocked the convention, Warren might have won the nomination.
Nixon was jealous of the vote-getting ability of Warren, and he got Eisenhower to promise to find a suitable appointment for Governor Warren which would effectively separate Warren from the California constituency. Nixon got Eisenhower to promise the next seat available on the US Supreme Court; to everyone's surprise Chief Justice (CJ) Vinson died suddenly, and Eisenhower offered the CJ seat to Warren who accepted, to the delight of Nixon.
In 1955, party pros pushed Warren for President. On April 13, 1955 a Gallup Poll reported that if Ike declined to seek a second term, Warren was the number one choice among Republican and Independent voters to succeed him, leading Nixon three to one. The next day, the 64-year old Warren issued a public statement that when he accepted the position on the court, he intended to leave politics permanently for the service of the Court.
When Ike had his first heart attack on September 24, 1955, the Warren-For-President noise started again. Ike considered Warren for vice president. Ike, despite the Brown v Board of Education desegregation case, still considered Warren as a decent man, essentially one like himself, middle-of-the-road, conscientious, affable, basically conciliatory, yet capable of being tough in the face of outrage. In a word, "safe."
THE WARREN PARADOX
Eisenhower had appointed Warren to be Chief Justice largely because the President believed him to be a high-level mediocrity. Everything about Warren seemed to indicate that his role on the Court would be than of an unimaginative moderate-conservative conformist. The composition of the Court itself would tend to hold him in line. Only two of his eight fellow Justices were avowed liberals; three were moderates, and three were strongly conservative.
EARLY YEARS IN BAKERSFIELD
He was christened "Earl Warren." He said "My parents were too poor to afford the luxury of a middle name." Warren was born at 457 Turner Street, near the railroad depot where his father worked, near Olivera Street, in Los Angeles, with a midwife, to Methias and Chrystal Warren, on March 19, 1891.
When Warren was five, they moved to a row house in Sumner, a tiny railroad village two miles from Bakersfield. In 1896, Bakersfield was frontier town of railroaders, miners, oil workers, construction laborers, Basque sheepherders, gamblers, saloon keepers, promoters, pimps and prostitutes, with a population of 7,000 (500 of which were estimated to be prostitutes.)
In 1897, Warren entered Washington School. A teacher tied his left hand behind his back, making him learn to write right handed. All his life, he ambidextrously wrote with his right hand but did everything else with his left.
If a boy isn't made to obey the laws when he is young, he won't obey the laws of his country when he is older.
-- EARL WARREN
Warren took clarinet lessons, and at age 15 joined the Bakersfield Local 263 of the American Federation of Musicians.
While Earl was still in high school, Methias took him to hear a memorable Bakersfield lecture by Dr. Russell H. Conwell, a well-known minister and founder of Philadelphia's Temple University. He delivered his famed "Acres of Diamonds" speech, whose theme was that there is no need to search the world for riches when they exist in your backyard. As an example, Conwell told of a wealthy Persian who had heard from a stranger of vast riches in diamonds to be found in a far-off land. The fortune-seeker sold his land, left his family and circled the globe seeking this treasure, only to wind up destitute. After his death, a stranger dug the land behind his home, which he had sold for naught, and there lay the richest diamond treasure on earth.
Reminiscing one day in 1954, Warren said, "Of all the lectures that I heard in my youth this one made the greatest impression upon me. The little town where we lived did not appear to offer too many advantages. It was located in an area covered largely by sagebrush and populated mainly by jackrabbits. But my father assured me that Dr. Conwell's story about 'Acres of Diamonds' applied to our little town as well as to the largest and most beautiful cities in America, and that people who were always thinking of fortune-hunting in the other parts of the world were actually overlooking golden opportunities at home. He kept this picture before me through all the years I was growing into manhood. That little town is now the center of a population of a hundred and fifty thousand. Many who left there in search of oil and gold in Alaska, Mexico and other distant places returned at a later date empty-handed, only to find that those who had remained had not only struck oil at home but, by harnessing mountain water and irrigating the parched land, had profitably made a veritable Garden of Eden out of the desert."
While an undergraduate at UC Berkeley, Earl heard an eloquent speech by a famed visiting political figure, 57-year old Senator Robert Marion "Fighting Bob" La Follette, Sr., the Republican Wisconsin governor from 1901 to 1906. He had pushed through a direct primary law, tax reform legislation, railroad rate control, and other liberal measures known as the "Wisconsin Idea."
In June 1912, Warren was awarded his Bachelor of Letters degree, and in September enrolled in the new UC law school at Berkeley. On May 141, 1914 Earl Warren received his degree from UC Berkeley as a Doctor of Jurisprudence. He was nearer the bottom than the top of his class, and did not make the Law Review staff or win any other coveted honors. He had a C average (called 3 then) and was certainly not voted Lawyer Most Likely to Succeed. He was admitted to the California State Bar in May 1914.
He then accepted a job in the small legal department of Associated Oil Company.
In August 1917, Warren enlisted in WWI as an infantry private. At Camp Lewis, Washington, he was made a first sergeant. He became friends with Leo Carillo, the Mexican-American actor, who was descended from California settlers. He later played "The Cisco Kid." Warren became a bayonet expert and second lieutenant. Instead of being sent to France, he was sent ot Camp MacArthur in Waco, Texas to teach at the Central Infantry Officers' Training School. He made First Lieutenant before the war ended on 11/11/1918. He was not yet 27.
He went to work for the Alameda County District Attorney's Office. At age 34, he was appointed DA to fill a vacancy. Making $7,000 a year, he decided to get married.
MARRIAGE TO NINA
Nina Palmquist Meyers and Earl Warren were married on October 14, 1925 in the First Baptist Church in Oakland.
ALAMEDA COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY
In 1926, Warren was elected DA. He prosecuted oil stock swindlers, unscrupulous health insurance promoters, school board embezzlers, cleaning and dyeing racketeers, fraudulent building and loan sharks, lawyers and stockbrokers who stole funds from estates entrusted to them, and assorted confidence artists. He indicted an aircraft manufacturer for making a defective wing on an airplane which killed a pilot on takeoff. He convicted dope peddlers, and reached into a sheriff's office to break up a slot machine and prostitution-protection ring. He was described as honest, grim and relentless. The public defender admitted that Warren never brought people into court unless he could prove they were guilty. Nothing troubled him more than the possibility that he might be sending an innocent person to jail. His instructions to his staff were: "Get the facts honestly and don't color them. If the facts are there, you can proceed. If they're not, we don't want them. Be fair, courteous and never go against your honest instincts."
Warren's conviction rate was an astonishing 86% -- far higher than that of SF, LA, and other areas in the state. He kept the office strictly nonpartisan and free of politics. He was a loyal Republican, but in 1924, he voted not for Coolidge, but for Progressive Party candidate Robert M. LaFollette. In 1932 he was a delegate to the national convention that nominated Hoover. The left in California was swept up in author Upton Sinclair's "End Poverty In California" (EPIC) soak-the-rich campaign.
DA Warren on February 17, 1938 announced that he had decided to run for Attorney General and revitalize that office like FDR had done as president.
HIS FATHER'S MURDER
On the warm Saturday evening of May 14, 1938, Methias Warren, then seventy-three years old, was sitting the living room of the small frame house at 709 Miles Street in Bakersfield where he had lived for forty-two years. The unkempt house was crammed with old unused furniture that he periodically removed for the renters of his hundred-odd cottages which he had built and owned in East Bakersfield. He had been reading the same local evening newspaper his his son used to deliver as a boy, the Bakersfield Californian, but probably had fallen asleep. His wife was in Oakland convalescing from a cataract operation. For several years, she had rented an apartment there near the home of their daughter, Ethel Plank.
The screened doors and windows were all open. A tenant came in at 8 pm to pay him the fifteen dollar' rent. This tenant was the last person to see Methias Warren alive.
The following morning, as his son was about to speak at a Sunday Masonic breakfast meeting in a Berkeley hotel, he was interrupted by an urgent telephone call from the Bakersfield police. Methias Warren had been savagely bludgeoned to death by an unknown assailant with a foot-long iron pipe presumably taken from his back yard strewn with pipes, plumbing, and old stoves. Robbery appeared to have been the motive. The pipe had been found in a neighbor's yard; the victim's broken glasses were on the kitchen floor, and his empty wallet was found in a nearby schoolyard, with the other contents scattered on the street. Two pennies were found in the slain man's trouser pocket.
It was immediately rumored that his was a political murder aimed at his crimebusting son. The DA of Alameda County had no jurisdiction in Kern County, but he immediately dispatched several aides to cooperate with the Bakersfield authorities. On Sunday evening, before boarding a plane for Bakersfield himself, he sadly said to reporters, "This is a terrible reason to have to make a trip home."
In his Bakersfield hotel room, Warren later held a press conference. Reporters flocked there from all over the state. Speaking honestly and emotionally about his father, he broke down while sitting on the bed and sobbed. Everyone present was deeply moved, remaining transfixed. But one photographer snapped a picture. Shocked at such insensitivity, the other reporters reproachfully removed the film from his camera and exposed it to the light. No picture of this scene ever appeared. "We all felt that Warren was such a decent guy that even us bastards wanted to protect him," recollects an onlooker.
More than a hundred suspects were questioned, and several were held, but all were later released because of lack of evidence.
Warren's chief investigator, Oscar Jahnsen, after months of investigation became convinced that he had identified the murderer, a man who had been involved in business dealings with Matt Warren. But before Jahnsen could wrap up the case, overeager local authorities clumsily began to third=degree the suspect without informing him of his rights; when the man's attorney found out, he advised him to remain silent, and no conclusive evidence was found to link him to the murder.
"I blew my top when they blew the case," Jahnsen recollects, still bitter. "The Chief wanted his father's murderer apprehended, but he refused to break any of own rules or use his office to convict a guilty man without solid, legally secured evidence. He warned us that we had to follow our strict office rules in investigating any murder. He even said to me later, 'Oscar, you did the right thing.'"
Bakersfield Chief of Police Robert B. Powers, who supervised 25 men working exclusively on the case, believed that the culprit was an itinerant prowler. "The motive was robbery and murder was not deliberately intended," he said for years. This view was accepted by the slain man's bereaved son. Among the suspects was a San Quentin prisoner -- convicted of another crime -- who could have been in Bakersfield at the time. "I wanted to put a stool pigeon in his cell and plant a dictaphone there," revealed Powers. But when informed of this plan, Earl Warren flatly rejected it. "We don't break the law when trying to enforce the law," he said simply.
CAMPAIGN FOR CALIFORNIA ATTORNEY GENERAL
In the campaign for Attorney General, Warren posted the necessary filing fees, $200 each, to become a candidate on not only the Republican but also the Democratic and Progressive tickets. While the Democrats were vilifying each other, Warren won the most votes cast in the August 1938 primary, to be candidate for all three parties. The Democrats desperately tried to defeat him with a write-in` candidate in the November election. Warren captured a million and half more votes than his closest write-in Democratic challenger. Warren was the only major Republican to survive the 1938 California Democratic landslide which swept into the governorship Culber L. Olson, an outspoken New Dealer riding FDR's coattails. Olsen was elected California's first Democratic governor in 44 years.
CORRUPTION AND CRIME FIGHTER
On his first day in office, January 2, 1939, Attorney General Earl Warren was tested. He was informed that the outgoing Republican Governor Merriam had just appointed his executive secretary as a Superior Court Judge in Warren's own Alameda County, even though this man had been accused of selling pardons to Folsom and San Quentin prisoners. Within an hour, Warren had the alleged culprit in his office. Securing the man's permission to have a stenographer present, he interrogated the new "judge" for two hours. Later, he had him read and sign this transcript. It was used not only to keep the man off the bench but eventually to help put him behind bars. Warren's swift cancellation of a last-minute appointment by an outgoing Republican Administration may have troubled some GOP politicians, but the Democratic Los Angeles Daily News crowed: "Official California is in for a good scrubbing behind the ears."
Warren, in his 4 years as Attorney General, closed down all the dog tracks in the state. He fought to drive out bookies and slot machines.
Warren's most spectacular antigambling battle was a naval one. It was waged on land simultaneously against four luxury gambling ships which were anchored off the Southern California coast at Santa Monica and Long Beach. Of the four -- the Rex, Texas, Tango, and Showboat -- the Rex was the biggest and most arrogant. Its rum-running owner, Tony Cornero, who was reportedly financed by the Al Capone underworld, claimed that since this ship was more than three miles from shore, it was therefore on the international "high seas" and not subject to California law. Every day hundreds, sometimes thousands, of customers were water-taxied from shore to ship to play the dice and blackjack tables, roulette wheels and "one-armed bandit" slot machines. The floating sports palace was advertised in friendly leading newspapers, on radio and billboards and even via airplane skywriting. Cash-depleted customers later complained of roughneck treatment whenever they protested that the games had been fixed, but the Rex and the other ships flourished, sucking millions of nontaxable dollars out of the State of California.
Warren sent Oscar Jahnsen to inform Cornero that he would be given safe escort to leave the California area. Insisting that he was legally in the clear, Cornero refused to close down his operation.
Enraged by Cornero's defiance, Warren uncovered an ancient U.S. Supreme Court decision which empowered a state to curb any "public nuisance" even beyond territorial limits. A second old state ruling was interpreted to show that even though the Rex was three miles from shore, it was still anchored within an ancient "Bay" over which California could claim jurisdiction. A third ruling found water taxis "public conveyances" requiring licenses to operate, which, of course, the Rex's water taxis lacked. Now convinced of his legal grounds, if not waters, Warren secured a court order which enabled him to raid the floating Rex casino and the three other gambling ships simultaneously.
Thus began the highly publicized naval maneuver of "Admiral" Warren. In July 1939 he formed a makeshift "fleet" consisting of four patrol, fire-fighting and fishing vessels mobilized from the state Fish and Game Commission, and sixteen water taxis. His "crew" was about three hundred law-enforcement officers, including some from the Los Angeles County sheriff's and district attorney's offices. Eight sea-going state accountants and lawyers accompanied them to examine the ship's books.
From his command post on a cliff at the Santa Monica Beach Club, the "Admiral" observed the Rex through telescope and field glasses, communicating his orders via shortwave radiophones. Three of the ships surrendered within a few hours but the Rex chose to resist. At 8 p.m. on July 29, Warren issued the command for his armada to attack it!
Suddenly a snag arose. Someone -- probably a crooked law enforcement officer -- had alerted Cornero to the impending invasion. The Rex's defending crew drove back the invaders with streaming fire hoses, and improvised an iron gate to prevent anyone from boarding. Undaunted, Warren ordered his commandos to blockade the ship. "If they won't let us on, we won't let anybody off," reasoned the land-based lawman. "A lot of the customers must be at their jobs the next day. Some husbands are on board whose wives don't know they're with girl friends, and some wives must be there gambling while their husbands are working."
The 650 stranded patrons threatened reprisals on the tormented Cornero. Finally the compassionate invading "Admiral" permitted them to return to shore but continued blockading the Rex to prevent it from fleeing.
The great California naval battle had now begun to make national headlines and the House of Representatives passed a California congressman's bill making a federal offense to operate a gambling ship off any coast of the United States. But it was not until Cornero's patience and food supplies were exhausted that he finally hoisted the white flag and surrendered more that a week later.
Climbing into the patrol cutter, the triumphant Warren led his seagoing posse and reserve land troops aboard the Rex. "It was like General Grant accepting Robert E. Lee's sword in surrender," recalls Oscar Jahnsen.
When the handcuffed Cornero was booked at the nearby Santa Monica police headquarters, he was asked his occupation. "Mariner, Goddammit!" he growled.
The vanquished Cornero threatened to sue Warren for "piracy on the high seas." But his threats proved as empty as many of his patrons' pockets. Had this defense been carried out, Earl Warren would have been the only future Chief Justice in American history ever accused of such a dastardly crime.
The seized, sacked gambling money was deposited in the state treasury. Cornero was finally persuaded to reimburse the State of California the $13,200 it had expended in raiding him and to pay the State Railroad Commission a negotiated $7,500 penalty for operating unlicensed water-taxi "public conveyances," and $4,200 in taxes. Jahnsen gleefully led a demolition crew aboard the Rex carrying crowbars and axes to destroy the hundred dice and blackjack tables, slot machines, and roulette wheels.
As Attorney General, Warren modernized and improved law enforcement throughout the state. He investigated charges of mistreatment in public and private mental institutions, orphanages, and nursing homes; opposed police troopers using unmarked cars; fought for black prizefighters to fight in a Hollywood stadium; and compelled exporters to pay their lawful sales taxes. Before the U.S. Court of Claims, he won $7 million for native Indians under "lost" 1851-1852 treaties. The future chief justice represented California in the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing before Justices Black and Douglas, his colleagues-to-be. In recognition of his work, he was elected president of the National Association of Attorneys General.
CAMPAIGN FOR GOVERNOR - 1942
In 1941, Attorney General Warren got into a series of disputes with Democratic Governor Olson. On April 9, 1942, Attorney General Warren, thought by many of the professional politicians to be a political cornball, announced his candidacy for Governor. On June 4, 1942, after paying his $250 filing fees, formally cross-filed for governor on both the Republican and Democratic tickets. He won the Republican primary, and got 404,000 votes compared to 513,000 for Olson, who had scorned to cross-file. Olson called Warren a "political eunuch, political hypocrite, puppet pretender not fit or competent to be governor." Warren seized upon a split in the Democratic ranks. FDR offered only tepid support for Olson.
In February 1942, FDR issued Executive Order 9066, which authorized the resettlement of Japanese-Americans into concentration camps. Warren supported it, although in later years he regretted it.
In the 1942 campaign, the confident Olson campaigned by radio. Warren stumped the state, driving in an open car, often with his driver and close friend, movie actor Leo ("The Cisco Kid") Carillo, who told jokes and signed autographs. His three daughters were injected to the campaign whenever possible. Olson attacked Warren for upholding the California law which required schoolchildren to salute the flag or be expelled as delinquents. Warren coolly retorted that the Supreme Court had upheld the law and that he was enforcing the law as AG.
On November 3, 1942, Warren won 57 of 58 counties, defeating Olson by more than 342,000 votes -- 1,275,287 to 932,995 -- in a surprising upset. Olson said "Warren is the slickest politician I ever met." Warren reduced taxes in wartime, and was very popular.
In 1944 Wendell Wilkie asked Warren to be the VP candidate, but Warren declined. FDR was elected to a fourth term. FDR died April 12, 1945 of a cerebral hemorrhage at Warm Springs, Georgia.
In January 1945, Warren urged the legislature to approve a comprehensive prepaid medical and hospital care program for all California workers and their families. It would have been the first in the nation, to be financed by a 3% payroll tax. The medical establishment cried "socialism." The bill did not pass.
Warren, despite a great battle, desegregated the California National Guard.
He also fought and won a battle to improve California highways by starting a ten-year road building program, paid for by a gasoline tax. Oil, trucking, and bus industries never forgave their gubernatorial adversary.
CAMPAIGN FOR GOVERNOR - 1946
In April 1946, Warren announced for a second term as governor. He won the Republican and the Democratic primaries, to be the candidate from both parties.
In 1946, Warren supported the reelection of a congressman from LA's Twelfth Congressional District, Jerry Voorhis, since Voorhis had supported Warren on the health insurance proposal and the battle with the oil and trucking industries. The Republican opponent, a lawyer named Richard Nixon, asked for Warren's support. Warren refused. Nixon upset Voorhis using now-famous smear tactics and demagoguery. The long-term antipathy between Warren and Nixon began here, and grew much deeper with time.
"Growth" was the watchword of Warren's 1946-1950 term. California grew to be the most populous state.
In 1947, Warren controlled the California delegation at the National Republican convention as the favorite son. He became the Vice Presidential candidate in 1948 with Dewey against Truman. He was a loyal campaigner, more effective that Dewey. The arrogant Dewey was expected to beat Truman, as shown by the famous photo of Truman holding up the newspaper headline "Dewey Beats Truman."
Warren had met Harry S. Truman in the 1930s at national Masonic conventions. They later met at several Senate hearings. They liked each other from the start.
In 1950, Warren announced for a third term as governor. Conservatives wanted him to run for the US Senate against liberal congresswoman Helen Gahagan Douglas, to get him out of Sacramento. Warren could have won, but decided he had more power as a veteran governor than as a freshman senator. Nixon ran instead, winning in a smear campaign, using a "slush fund" which later he defended in the "Checkers" speech. Nixon attacked Douglas's patriotism, calling her the "Pink Lady." Warren's democratic opponent was James Roosevelt, FDR's son. Eleanor gave speeches for James, and was furious at Truman for failing to support James out of respect for Warren.
On November 7, 1950, Warren smashed Roosevelt in the election, winning all 58 counties, the greatest electoral victory in CA history. Roosevelt was later elected to Congress, supporting Warren Court decisions.
However, on the same day, Warren was told his daughter, blonde 17-year old Nina, called "Honeybear" because she resembled a cute Koala bear, was stricken with the flu that was actually determined to be spinal poliomyelitis. Earl and Nina drove 80 miles home to the hospital. Warren did not even know he had been reelected in a landslide until the doctors told him late in the night that Honey bear was going to live.
Twelve days later, the middle daughter, Dottie, was being driven home from a college fraternity dance when her escort's car plowed into a truck that had stopped at a railroad grad crossing in a heavy fog. She suffered a punctured lung and five broken ribs. The Warrens shuttled between the two hospitals to see the girls. Honeybear's recuperation was slow but complete.
The Warrens doted on all of their children. Christmas was Dickensian. A reporter once asked Warren why his home phone number was listed in the book. "With three teenage daughters, I have no choice," he explained.
Warren's concern for children was real. He created 300 child-care centers operated by the State Dept. of Education for children of working mothers. They were mostly housed in public schools and administered by local boards of education in 51 school districts. The cost was met by the state and by parents' fees of two to six dollars weekly per child, which were uniform throughout the state. He also started the Youth Authority as an alternative to prison.
Warren took great pride in the high quality of judges he appointed to state courts.
Warren visited Japan, and invited the first group of visiting farmers to learn California farming methods at UC agricultural extension division.
Warren sat with Truman on a flag-draped dais, welcoming delegates from 52 nations to the Japanese Peace Treaty Conference at San Francisco's War Memorial Opera House.
CAMPAIGN FOR PRESIDENT - 1952
A July 1951 Gallup Poll reported that Warren could defeat President Truman by a 52 to 39 margin. The Mystery Candidate was Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower. A conservative branch of the party was forming to back Ohio senator Robert Taft. On November 14, 1951 Warren announced that he would run for president.
However, at a Republican State Committee dinner in San Diego in early December 1951, Warren suddenly suffered severe intestinal distress and was rushed to the hospital. Malignancy was discovered, and much of his intestine was removed. He remained hospitalized for two weeks.
Taft diehards spread the rumor that Warren was dying of cancer. Rumors were spread about Warren, including that while golfing he had received a golf bag full of $92,000 bribe in cash, on a day when he could not have been anywhere near a golf course.
Then, on January 7, 1952, Eisenhower stopped being coy and said he was a Republican and announced he was running for the GOP nomination.
DOUBLE-CROSS BY NIXON
In the California primary, Senator Nixon pledged to support Warren, but he actually schemed and supported and campaigned for Ike. Warren won in California.
When the California delegation went to the Republican convention in Chicago by train, Nixon got off furtively at the last stop before Chicago and into a waiting car. Beating the train, Nixon was absent when the photograph of the California delegation was taken. When Warren made a courtesy call on Eisenhower, the doorkeeper was Nixon's assistant Murray Chotiner.
The first vote was surprisingly close: Ike 595, Taft 500, Warren 81, Stassen 20, and MacArthur 10. When Stassen switched to Ike, it was all over. Soon, the VP nominee, Richard Nixon, was announced. The grinning and eager Nixon was the VP candidate six brief years after first running for public office.
Warren campaigned furiously for the Ike ticket. However, he was seriously disturbed by Eisenhower's failure in Milwaukee to defend his old colleague and benefactor, General George C. Marshall, against Senator McCarthy's charges of treason. Ike's habit of mangling syntax grated on his nerves. But, he supported Ike publicly and privately over Adlai E. Stevenson.
While in California, President Truman said that the Republican party had turned away from the great liberal governor and chose another Californian "... who is not worthy to lace his shoes...". When later asked by reporters whom he was referring to, the plain-talking Truman retorted: "Nixon! He's a no-good lying' sonofabitch!"
When Stevenson campaigned in Sacramento and Warren was out of state, Warren arranged for him to speak on the Capitol steps and even to use his office. Warren said, "No votes were ever lost by being courteous." Even if Warren would not stoop to the scurrilities used by some Republicans, Nixon did not. Nixon called Truman, Stevenson, and Secretary of State Dean Acheson traitors -- for which none of them ever forgave him. Warren focused on Ike's virtues, called Ike "warm-hearted." When Ike won, Warren was effectively out of power. He would be almost 70 in 1960, and too old to campaign and win. If he had made a "deal" such as Nixon, did, he could have been VP for California's 70 votes at the convention. Governor Warren appointed Thomas H. Kuchel, state controller, to fill Nixon's senate seat, which he held for 16 years.
CHIEF JUSTICE OF THE UNITED STATES, 1953 - 1969
Ike offered Warren the job of solicitor general, and mentioned that he would be considered for the next opening on the Supreme Court.
Suddenly and without warning, Chief Justice Frederick Moore Vinson, who had served 7 lackluster years, died. Truman had appointed his old friend and congressman to the court to bring harmony to the feuding justices. However, Vinson was unable to get the justices to agree on anything. When considering a replacement, Ike considered many possibilities. Ike's conservative older brother, Edgar, a Tacoma lawyer, assured Ike that Warren was a "leftist tool." By contrast, Milton, Ike's liberal younger brother, then president of Pennsylvania State University, advised him that Warren was a spokesman for right-wing reactionaries. The President was much reassured; he invariably believed that the path of wisdom lay somewhere midway between his brothers' opinions. Warren's image seemed perfect: honest, safe, unimaginative, "progressive-conservative," popular, scandal-free. Warren could be depended not to rock the boat. Nixon urged Ike to appoint Warren, for obvious reasons. Even though Warren had announced he would not run for a fourth term as governor, the only way to be sure Warren was not a power in California politics was to put him on the Court. Also, to Eisenhower, appointing Warren as CJ would eliminate him as a presidential candidate in 1956. The only real limitation was that Warren had no judicial experience, but neither had John Marshall, Roger Taney, or Charles Evans Hughes.
Attorney General Brownell flew to California September 27, 1953 and offered the job to Warren if he could take the seat a week later, on October 5, 1953. Warren accepted. No conversation occurred about pending court cases. Since the Senate was not in session, the appointment was an "interim appointment," which meant that the Senate would consider the nomination when it next met. In the meantime, Warren took the seat.
On October 4, 1953, the Warrens flew to Washington. On October 5, 1953, at 10:00 am, the new Chief Justice arrived at the white Greek-style Supreme Court building. He entered the rear of the building in a chauffeured limousine, but, keeping promises to photographers, went out to the front of the building and posed and waved for photographs under the marble arches. The private Constitutional Oath was administered by Justice Hugo Black just before 12:00 noon. Precisely at noon, Marshall pounded the gavel, and the eight justices took their seats. Justice Black announced the death of Vinson and that there would be a memorial service later in the term. Then, the Clerk administered the Judicial Oath to the incoming Chief Justice. Marshall then led the new Chief Justice to the center seat. The neophyte justice tripped over the long, borrowed robe. A mishap was averted when he quickly recovered his balance. "Yes, I literally stumbled into the Court," he later chuckled. Shortly thereafter, the Court adjourned until the following Monday.
The Court, except for Warren, were all appointed by FDR or Truman. They ranged from very liberal to very conservative, and several could not stand some of the others.
The two all-out liberals were: Hugo Black, first New Deal nominee, ex-Klu Klux Klansman, Alabama US Senator and First Amendment diehard; and William O, Douglas, former Yale law professor, chairman of the SEC, and environmentalist.
The three moderates were: Robert J. Jackson, FDR Attorney General and IRS general counsel; Tom C. Clark, ex-Attorney General and poker-playing pal of Truman; and Sherman Minton, a dour, undistinguished former 7th Circuit US Court of Appeals jurist and senator from Indiana.
The three conservatives were: Stanley Reed, an aging Kentucky former solicitor general and New Dealer who had moved sharply to the right; Harold H. Burton, a plodding former Republican senator from Ohio and ex-mayor of Cleveland; and the brilliant Felix Frankfurter, formerly an ultraliberal Harvard law professor and founder of the ACLU, but who had grown increasingly conservative on the Court.
Despite their egos and different backgrounds, Warren persuaded all of them to unanimously vote against school segregation in Brown v Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas.
The "Warren Court" was famous for decisions for criminal defendants' individual rights against the government, for personal privacy, and for freedom of speech, even unpopular speech.
Years later, Eisenhower said the appointment of Warren was "one of the two biggest mistakes I made in my Administration." It is not clear what or who Eisenhower then believed his other mistake had been. He was later quoted as called the Warren appointment "my biggest damn-fool mistake."
On November 29, 1963, President Johnson signed Executive Order 11130 creating the seven-man President's Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy (which, two weeks later, Congress and the President signed into law as Public Law 88-202). The Order said:
The purposes of the Commission are to examine the evidence developed the Federal
Bureau of Investigation and any additional evidence that may hereafter come to light or
be uncovered by Federal or state authorities; to make such further investigation as the
Commission finds desirable; to evaluate all the facts and circumstances surrounding such
assassination, including the subsequent violent death of the man charged with the
assassination, and to report to me its findings and conclusions.
The Commission is empowered to prescribe its own procedures and to employ such
assistants as it deems necessary.
Necessary expenses of the Commission may be paid from the "Emergency Fund for the
President." All Executive departments and agencies are directed to furnish the
Commission with such facilities, services and cooperation as it may request from time to
The members of the commission:
Chief Justice Earl Warren
Conservative bachelor Democratic Senator Richard B. Russell of Georgia had served continuously in the Senate for thirty years. As sixty-six, he was the influential chairman of the Armed Services Committee. An articulate opponent of the desegregation decisions, Russell had been sought by President Johnson to serve with Warren on the commission as a sign of national unity.
Liberal Republican Senator John Sherman Cooper, 62, later Ambassador to India and Nepal and a U.S. Delegate to the United Nations, had been a county and state circuit judge in his native Kentucky.
Middle-road Democratic Representative Hale Boggs, 50, of New Orleans, the Majority Whip, was first elected to Congress in 1940 at age 26. After a World War II stint, he was returned to the House, where he served for many years. [When he died in a plane crash, his widow was elected to his seat for many years. Their daughter is ABC reporter/broadcaster Cokie Roberts.]
Conservative Republican Representative Gerald R. Ford of Grand Rapids, Michigan, 50, was the new chairman of the House GOP Association as one of the House's most effective members. Earlier, in 1950, the U.S. Junior Chamber of Commerce had named him one of the ten outstanding young men in the United States.
Allen W. Dulles, 70, the conservative Republican brother of late Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, had been replaced in 1961 as director of the CIA when President Kennedy entered office. During World War II Dulles had worked for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), and had recently published his book, The Craft of Intelligence.
Republican lawyer John J. McCloy, 68, had been High Commissioner for Germany (1949-1952), President of the World Bank (1947-2949), Assistant Secretary of War (1941-1945) and chairman of New York's Rockefeller-dominated Chase Manhattan Bank. During the Cuban missile crisis, he had headed a presidential team which had negotiated with the Soviet Union.
Wearing two administrative hats, Warren divided his time between the commission and the Supreme Court. He worked long into the night and then appeared at the Court early in the morning.
Most of the criticism of the Commission Report concerns Oswald's past history and associations, and the ballistic and medical evidence relating to the crime itself. Even today, the facts appear murky, especially concerning Oswald's "Cuban connection," and the so-called "miracle bullet."
Warren was criticized for not releasing photographs of the President's exploded head and grisly wounds. He defended his actions as the "proper thing to do." Conspiracy theorists point to this secrecy as some evidence of a great conspiracy.
Until Jack Ruby died of cancer in January 1967 in prison, he steadfastly maintained that he was no conspirator; that he had killed Oswald solely in a desire to spare Jacqueline Kennedy from the ordeal of a Dallas trial at which she would have been compelled to be a witness.
Earl Warren believed Jack Ruby. But millions of people throughout the world to this day still do not.
On Thursday, September 24, 1964, President Johnson received a one-sentence letter and a 888-page report.
Warren had 28 investigators working for ten months, besides the FBI and other agencies, and found nothing. The report did say that the commission had found no evidence of a conspiracy; if there is any such evidence, it has been beyond the reach of all the investigative agencies and resources of the United States and has not come to the attention of the Commission.
At first, the report was greatly praised. However, since then, conspiracy theories have sprang up.
In February, 1967 six-foot-six New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison, known as the "Jolly Green Giant," arrested a socially prominent businessman Clay Shaw, whom he accused of being a homosexual, and tried to link him with an Oswald-Ruby-FBI-CIA plot to kill President Kennedy. Garrison boasted that the Warren Commission report was now discredited. Two years later, a jury deliberated less than an hour and acquitted Shaw after a bizarre forty-day trial in which Garrison was accused of bribing, drugging and hypnotizing witnesses.
By May 1967 Esquire magazine could cite at least sixty different assassination theories that had already been published in book or magazine form, none of which agreed with the commission's finding. Gallup and Harris polls reported that two out of three Americans queried did not believe that the report "had told the full story."
RETIREMENT FROM THE SUPREME COURT
In 1968, after Nixon was elected, Warren announced his retirement from the court to allow President Johnson to appoint his successor. Many names were suggested. Billy Graham recommended Texas Governor John Connally.
The new appointee had to take the seat before January 20, 1969, when Nixon would take office.
On June 26, 1968 President Johnson read and released Warren's two June 13 letters, his June 26 reply, and announced that he had named Associate Justice Abe Fortas to succeed Warren. To Fortas' seat, Johnson appointed another old friend, Judge Homer Thornberry, a 59-year old former Mayor of Austin, Texas, and successor to Johnson's seat in the House.
On July 11 the Senate Judiciary Committee opened hearings. Shortsightedly, Fortas accepted the Judiciary Committee's invitation to testify. He was the first CJ nominee in history ever to do so. Warren had declined to do so, letting his record speak for him. Senators could not impeach Warren, but they whiplashed Fortas for cronyism with LBJ and drew him into a discussion and defense of several Warren Court decisions, many of which were decided before Fortas had joined the Court. On September 13, the embattled and embarrassed Fortas wrote Mississippi Senator Eastland, the anti-Warren Court Judiciary Committee chairman, that he would no longer testify. The full Judiciary Committee finally approved the Fortas nomination 11-6, moving it to the Senate floor. A coalition of southern Democrats and Republicans, urged on by Nixon, began a filibuster which could not be stopped by sufficient votes for cloture. Fortas wrote to LBJ requesting that his nomination be withdrawn. Immediately LBJ complied with deep regret. Everybody then besieged LBJ with a new nominee, but the proud old Texan refused to name a Fortas substitute.
There was no vacant chair when the 1968-1969 Supreme Court term opened on October 7. Associate Justice Fortas took his seat, and the 77-year old Warren took the stormy center seat. The issue remained: what was Warren's status? His letter of resignation did not state a date, it was "effective at your pleasure." Republican senators, such as Everett Dirkson, said no further letters were required; the new president could accept it immediately upon taking office.
On January 20, 1969, the Chief Justice administered the presidential oath of office to his lifelong political enemy. The ceremony seemed to mark the twilight of Earl Warren's public career and the resurrection and apogee of Richard Nixon's.
The two men were polite to each other. Warren had voted against Nixon for president twice, for Kennedy in 1960 and for Humphrey in 1968, and he would later vote for McGovern in 1972.
Fortas was then further embarrassed by impropriety, and resigned from the Court. Nixon then had two vacancies to fill. Nixon named Warren Burger as CJ.
Warren resigned effective June 23, 1969. For the first time in history, a President, in eulogizing a departing Justice, would address the Supreme Court. Clad in striped trousers and a cutaway coat, Nixon walked to the lawyer's lectern facing the bench. For seven minutes the President spoke on the dignity, fairness, integrity, and humanity of his retiring rival. Earl Warren, he said, had helped to keep America on the path of continuity and change which is so essential to our progress. Warren then thanked Nixon for his words, reminding him that the Supreme Court was a continuing body. The fourteenth Chief Justice of the United States beckoned his successor and administered the hundred-word oath of office to him. Everyone rose. Following the ceremony, the President and two Chief Justices posed for photographers on the Supreme Court steps, flanked by the massive marble pillars. All smiled dutifully for continuity and history.
In 1969, Nixon appointed Clement J. Haynsworth, Jr. of Greenville, South Carolina, the conservative Chief Justice of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. An alliance of AFL-CIO and civil rights groups, angry over the Fortas mess, opposed him. An old story was circulated that he had ruled in a case in which he had financial interest. Although the accusation fell short of suggesting that Haynsworth was guilty of illegality, the hint of impropriety was enough to reject him by a vote of 55-45.
On January 19, 1970, Nixon tried again with G. Harold Carswell, a judge on the Fifth Circuit in Tallahassee, Florida. Civil rights groups accused him of having publicly advocated segregation and white supremacy. Legal scholars gave his judicial record low marks. Louis H. Pollak, Dean of Yale Law School, and William Van Alstyne, Professor of Law at Duke University, both told the Senate Judiciary Committee that Carswell's abilities were at best "mediocre." This prompted Republican Senator Roman Hruska of Nebraska to defend Carswell in on of the most extraordinary rebuttals in Senate history: "Even if he is mediocre, there are a lot of mediocre judges and people and lawyers and they are entitled to a little representation, aren't they? We can't have all Brandeises and Cardozos and Frankfurters and stuff like that." The Senate rejected him 51-45.
Nixon decided to retaliate against the liberal Justice William O. Douglas. John Mitchell was assigned the task of uncovering evidence against Douglas, and House Republican Leader Gerald Ford was designated to present it in the most inflammatory way possible. On April 15,1 a mere week after the Carswell nomination, Ford rose on the House floor and demanded that Justice Douglas be impeached. He charged that Douglas had accepted and annual $12,000 retainer from a foundation with gambling connections; that Douglas had failed to disqualify himself from hearing cases in which he had a personal interest; that he had been paid to give legal advice in violation of Federal law; that he had contributed an article to a "pornographic" magazine; and that he had written a book advocating "hippie-yippie style revolution." Ford charged further that Douglas had personally "defied the conventions and convictions of decent Americans" by behaving like a "dirty old man by consorting with all those women, even if he did marry them." "An impeachable offense," he said, "is whatever a majority of the House of Representatives considers it to be at a given moment in history."
This intemperate and scurrilous speech from an ordinarily genial lawmaker sparked a seven-month investigation by a House Judiciary subcommittee. In the end, the subcommittee voted 3-1 that it found no evidence to support Ford's charges and that there were no grounds for impeachment.
In June 1970 at the University of Santa Clara commencement exercises, Warren in a speech said, "Some would supplant a part of our freedoms with policies of repression in an effort to establish what they would euphemistically call 'Law and Order.' Others would destroy all our institutions in the name of reform and still greater freedoms. But the four most meaningful words in the Constitution for the disadvantaged are 'due process' and 'equal protection.' ..."
On May 11, 1974, Warren again delivered the commencement address at the University of Santa Clara.
On May 23, 1974, he returned to Washington and was hospitalized. He had asked to be treated at Bethesda Naval Hospital. If he were a sitting Justice, he could have been admitted to any Federal military hospital, but as a retired Justice, his admission required Executive approval. President Nixon was requested to sign such an order, but he refused to do so, Warren later told hospital visitor Arthur Goldberg.
After Warren was admitted to the Georgetown University Hospital, tormented Richard Nixon had second thoughts. The White House physician offered to transfer Warren to Bethesda, but the proud Warren declined the offer. Warren was to have spoken at graduation at UC Santa Cruz, but he was unable to make the trip. He sent a long letter on May 30, 1974 with what he would have said in his speech.
On June 2, 1974, Warren was discharged to convalesce at home. On July 2, 1974, he was rushed back to the Georgetown Hospital. He was diagnosed with coronary insufficiency and congestive heart failure.
The day before, Governor Ronald Reagan vetoed, in and $10 billion budget, a modest $45,000 legislative appropriation to complete the four-year-old Earl Warren Oral History project in Berkeley, despite an estimated $400 million state surplus.
At 8:10 pm on the warm Washington evening of July 9, 1974, Earl Warren, eighty-three, died of cardiac arrest. Nina, his devoted wife of forty-nine years, and their youngest daughter, Mrs. Stuart Brien, who was visiting from California, were at his bedside.
Before his death, Warren hoped that the Supreme Court would do its duty and uphold Judge Sirica's order that President Nixon surrender the audio tapes which contained the evidence in the Watergate scandal. He died not knowing the decision.
On July 11 and July 12, 1974, the body of Earl Warren lay in state in the white-marbled Great Foyer of the United States Supreme Court, in a flag-draped bronze coffin. It was the first time in American history that a deceased Justice had been so honored. The black velvet-covered catafalque included a section used for Abraham Lincoln. To permit loan of this stand, both houses of Congress had passed special resolutions within ninety minutes. Nine thousand persons filed past to say farewell.
Nine present Justices and four former ones lined up on the descending marble steps as honorary pallbearers. There was an hour-long funeral service in Washington's National Cathedral on Friday, July 12, 1974. More than a thousand person crowded the Cathedral. The funeral service brought together President Nixon and all the Justices who four days earlier had heard the Watergate tape case which would determine his presidency. When the service concluded, President Nixon escorted the black-veiled widow from the quiet Cathedral before returning to his own unquiet White House.
Earl Warren's body was buried on a grassy knoll in Arlington National Cemetery. One-time First Lieutenant Warren was buried with full military honors. The flag was handed to Chief Justice Burger who handed it to the widow.
Twelve day later, Chief Justice Burger opened the July 24 session of the Supreme Court with a eulogy to his predecessor. It was appropriate, for on that day, the court had indeed "done its duty." The vote on United States v Nixon was a unanimous 8-0 (Rehnquist had disqualified himself since he had worked on the case in the Justice Department.) The President could not withhold the controversial tapes on the grounds of "executive privilege," the Court noted, and must surrender them forthwith. The opinion was written by Chief Justice Burger himself. The President, after hearing the decision, reportedly blazed with unprintable fury at his San Clemente retreat, shouting that Burger was no better than Warren.
Three days later, on July 27, the House Judiciary Committee recommended to the full House three articles of impeachment against the President. The vote was 27-11. It voted 38-0 that he had obstructed justice. On August 5, the President reluctantly surrendered the disputed tapes. They indicated that, despite his lies, Nixon had knowledge of the Watergate burglary six days after it had occurred. Four days after the release of the tapes, on August 9, 1974, President Nixon resigned rather than endure certain impeachment (accusation) by the House and probable conviction by the Senate. His resignation followed Chief Justice Warren's death by precisely one month.
That the jurist would have greeted this resolution of a constitutional crisis and national nightmare with the profoundest relief is beyond doubt.
In a rare interview shortly before his death, Warren was furious about the Watergate revelations. "Nixon's not important," affirmed the old man. "The country, the country is important. But it's going to rot under Tricky." He sighed and then added that his twenty-eight-year political adversary was the most reprehensible President in American history, who had abused not only the office but, perhaps even worse, the American people. "It's difficult to conceive of anyone living to be eighty-three and having no regrets." Then he turned to his visitor and, in a voice choking with emotion, said: "If I had ever known what was going to happen to this country -- and this Court -- I never would have resigned. They would have had to carry me out of here on a plank!"
REMEMBERING EARL WARREN
Warren's plain words are now engraved on his tombstone:
... Where there is injustice, we should correct it;
where there is poverty, we should eliminate it;
where there is corruption, we should stamp it out;
where there is violence, we should punish it;
where there is neglect, we should provide care;
where there is war, we should restore peace; and
wherever corrections are achieved, we should add them permanently to our storehouse of treasures.
On August 24, 1955, less than two years after being appointed to the Supreme Court, Earl Warren spoke these unconsciously prophetic words in Independence Hall in Philadelphia on the occasion of the John Marshall Bicentennial Ceremonies, which apply so well to Earl Warren himself:
The controversy which raged around Marshall during his long career quickly subsided at this death and he soon became judged by the rule of reason rather than the rule of perfection. Today we appraise him as we do a lofty mountain peak -- not by the crevices, jagged rocks and slides that are so apparent at close view, but by the height, the symmetry and grandeur it acquires in the perspective of the distance. Thus viewed, John Marshall stands out as a colossus among the giants of his time.