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Felix Frankfurter - Coming To America

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Felix Frankfurter was born in Vienna, Austria, in 1882. He was the third of six children born to Emma and Leopold Frankfurter. Leopold was an unsuccessful Jewish merchant and in 1893 he set sail for America to search for greater economic opportunity and to escape Vienna's rising anti-Semitism (prejudice against Jews).

Emma Frankfurter and her six children arrived at Ellis Island in New York one year later aboard the Marsala. Felix did not speak a word of English when he began school at PS25 (Public School 25) on Fifth Street in New York City at the age of twelve. Emma was the dominant influence in Felix's life and she encouraged him to succeed as a scholar. He was an eager student who eagerly read books on literature, politics, and history. Felix spent hours reading journals from all over the world as he showed an early interest in world affairs.

Felix thrived on learning and went to the Free Academy of New York, now called City College. There he completed a program combining part of high school and all of his college requirements. In 1902, at the age of nineteen, he graduated third in his class of 775. Felix had long known that he wanted to be an attorney. He attended Harvard Law School where he was at the top of his class all three years before graduating in 1906.

While at Harvard, the philosophy of Professor James Bradley Thayer (1831–1902) impressed Frankfurter and became the foundation of his own jurisprudence (theories in law). Thayer counseled that, as a general principle, the courts should defer to Congress and the state legislatures whenever possible since legislators were directly elected by the public to solve social issues.



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