Brown v. Board of Education
Chief Justice Fred Moore Vinson
Robert W. Langran of the Supreme Court Historical Society noted that of eight Supreme Court justices rated as "failures" by authors Albert P. Blaustein and Roy M. Mersky in a 1978 volume entitled The First One Hundred Justices: Statistical Studies on the Supreme Court of the United States, only one was a chief justice, Fred Moore Vinson. Vinson (1890-1953), appointed chief in 1946, served just seven years, until his death, making his the shortest tenure of a chief justice during the twentieth century.
According to Langran, the authors' identification of Vinson and others as "failures" reveals an ideological bias. Although he tended to offer conservative opinions in cases involving the political rights of radicals, his views on race helped pave the way for many important civil rights rulings. Thus, for instance, in Vinson's first major opinion, Shelley v. Kraemer (1948), he held that restrictive covenants designed to keep African Americans out of white neighborhoods represented a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. Likewise in Sweatt v. Painter (1950), he led a unanimous Court in refusing to accept an attempt by the University of Texas Law School to justify its "separate but equal" facility for black students.
Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1954 to 1962Brown v. Board of Education - Significance, Naacp Takes On Topeka Board Of Education, Fight Goes To Supreme Court, Court Throws Out Plessy; Declares Segregation Illegal