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Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.

Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr circa 1930-edit.jpg
Holmes, c.1930, by theHarris & Ewing photo studio

Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States

In officeDecember 4, 1902 – January 12, 1932

Nominated by

Theodore Roosevelt

Preceded by

Horace Gray

Succeeded by

Benjamin Cardozo

Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court

In officeAugust 2, 1899 – December 4, 1902

Nominated by

Murray Crane

Preceded by

Walbridge Field

Succeeded by

Marcus Knowlton

Associate Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court

In officeDecember 15, 1882 – August 2, 1899

Nominated by

John Long

Preceded by

Otis Lord

Succeeded by

William Loring

Personal details

Born

March 8, 1841Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.

Died

March 6, 1935 Washington, D.C., U.S.

Political party

Republican

Spouse

Fanny Bowditch Dixwell

Education

Harvard University

Signature

Military service

Allegiance

  United States

Branch/service

  United States Army

Years of service

1861–1865

Rank

Union Army colonel rank insignia.pngBrevetColonel

Unit

20th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry

Battles/wars

American Civil War

Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. was an American jurist who served as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from 1902 to 1932, and as Acting Chief Justice of the United States in January–February 1930. Noted for his long service, concise and pithy opinions, and deference to the decisions of elected legislatures, he is one of the most widely cited United States Supreme Court justices in history, particularly for his "clear and present danger" opinion for a unanimous Court in the 1919 case of Schenck v. United States, and is one of the most influential American common law judges, honored during his lifetime in Great Britain as well as the United States. Holmes retired from the court at the age of 90, making him the oldest justice in the Supreme Court's history. He also served as an Associate Justice and as Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, and was Weld Professor of Law at his alma mater, Harvard Law School.

Profoundly influenced by his experience fighting in the American Civil War, Holmes helped move American legal thinking towards legal realism, as summed up in his maxim: "The life of the law has not been logic; it has been experience." Holmes espoused a form of moral skepticism and opposed the doctrine of natural law, marking a significant shift in American jurisprudence. In one of his most famous opinions, his dissent in Abrams v. United States , he regarded the United States Constitution as "an experiment, as all life is an experiment" and believed that as a consequence "we should be eternally vigilant against attempts to check the expression of opinions that we loathe and believe to be fraught with death." During his tenure on the Supreme Court, to which he was appointed by President Theodore Roosevelt, he supported efforts for economic regulation and advocated broad freedom of speech under the First Amendment. These positions as well as his distinctive personality and writing style made him a popular figure, especially with American progressives. His jurisprudence influenced much subsequent American legal thinking, including judicial consensus supporting New Deal regulatory law, and influential schools of pragmatism, critical legal studies, and law and economics. He was one of only a handful of justices to be known as a scholar; The Journal of Legal Studies has identified Holmes as the third-most cited American legal scholar of the 20th century.

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Discover Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. Quotes and Sayings

Young man, the secret of my success is that an early age I discovered that I was not God. - Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

Young man, the secret of my success is that an early age I discovered that I was not God.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

success age
A child's education should begin at least one hundred years before he is born. - Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

A child's education should begin at least one hundred years before he is born.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

education
It seems to me that at this time we need education in the obvious more than the investigation of the obscure. - Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

It seems to me that at this time we need education in the obvious more than the investigation of the obscure.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

education
I have no respect for the passion of equality, which seems to me merely idealizing envy. - Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

I have no respect for the passion of equality, which seems to me merely idealizing envy.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

respect equality
A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions. - Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

experience
A moment's insight is sometimes worth a life's experience. - Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

A moment's insight is sometimes worth a life's experience.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

experience
The greatest act of faith is when a man understands he is not God. - Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

The greatest act of faith is when a man understands he is not God.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

faith
The great act of faith is when a man decides he is not God. - Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

The great act of faith is when a man decides he is not God.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

faith
There is no friend like an old friend who has shared our morning days, no greeting like his welcome, no homage like his praise. - Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

There is no friend like an old friend who has shared our morning days, no greeting like his welcome, no homage like his praise.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

morning friendship
Men must turn square corners when they deal with the Government. - Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

Men must turn square corners when they deal with the Government.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

government
Beware how you take away hope from any human being. - Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

Beware how you take away hope from any human being.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

hope
Lawyers spend a great deal of their time shoveling smoke. - Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

Lawyers spend a great deal of their time shoveling smoke.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

legal
A man is usually more careful of his money than of his principles. - Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

A man is usually more careful of his money than of his principles.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

money
The only prize much cared for by the powerful is power. - Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

The only prize much cared for by the powerful is power.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

power
Truth is tough. It will not break, like a bubble, at the touch, nay, you may kick it about all day like a football, and it will be round and full at evening. - Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

Truth is tough. It will not break, like a bubble, at the touch, nay, you may kick it about all day like a football, and it will be round and full at evening.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

truth