Thursday, October 22, 2015

Howard's Dream

Thirteen year old Howard had a dream. He wanted to be a lawyer. But not just any lawyer. His father was a lawyer, and a very successful one at that. His grandfather was a lawyer as well. The law was in his blood. But Howard's dream was bigger than either his father or his grandfather had achieved. Howard wanted to be a Justice on the United States Supreme Court, maybe even Chief Justice.

So, in 1870, at the age of thirteen, Howard entered Woodward High School in Cincinnati, Ohio where he was born. The Unitarian faith of his parents and the strong work ethic of his grandfather helped him to apply himself to his studies.
Upon graduation from High School, Howard applied to, and was accepted into, Yale, where he graduated second in his class in 1878. After Yale, Howard studied law at Cincinnati Law School where he earned his degree in 1880 and was admitted to the Ohio bar.

Howard knew that greenhorn lawyers fresh out of law school don't usually get an appointment to the country's highest court. He had to begin somewhere. For Howard, the beginning was in Hamilton County, Ohio, where he served as assistant prosecuting attorney. Then, in 1885, He served as assistant county solicitor.

His next break came in 1887 when Ohio Governor J.B. Foraker appointed him to a vacancy on the Cincinnati Superior Court. The following year, the voters elected Howard to the court for a five year term. However, two years later, Howard resigned when President Benjamin Harrison appointed him Solicitor General of the United States.

As Solicitor General, Howard did an exemplary job, winning 15 out of 18 cases that he argued before the Supreme Court. His desire to be a Supreme Court Justice only intensified during this time, driving him even harder in the pursuit of his dream.

The years ahead brought further advances to his judicial career, in which he did indeed surpass the accomplishments of his father and his grandfather, as well as most of his peers and law school colleagues.

  • 1892 Appointed by President Harrison to the newly formed Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

  • 1896 Appointed Dean of the University of Cincinnati Law School.

  • 1913 Professor of constitutional law at Yale University.

  • 1913 President of the American Bar Association.

Finally, in 1921, his greatest ambition - his lifelong dream was realized. President Warren G. Harding appointed Howard to the Supreme Court of the United States. And not only a Justice, but the Chief Justice of the Court. As Chief Justice, Howard brought about reform in the Court, helping congress to pass the Judiciary Act of 1925 which brought about greater efficiency in the way the court functions. He is also largely responsible for getting congressional approval for a new court building (our present Supreme Court Building).

Bad health forced Howard to retire in February of 1930. Thirty three days later, Howard died.

Henry David Thoreau said that "most men lead lives of quiet desperation." This was not true of Howard. He lived his life doing what he loved best, and accomplished what a great many men never get to accomplish - a life long dream. He spoke of his appointment as Chief Justice as "the greatest honor of my life". Quite a note of praise considering all of his accomplishments.

If there was anything in his career that was less than fulfilling to him, it was only a momentary diversion - a short period between 1909 and 1913 that Howard described as the loneliest job he had ever had. A job he never really wanted and was glad to be rid of. The four years that he served his country - as it's 27th President. William Howard Taft.