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Archives and Special Collections: United States Supreme Court Justices

The Stockton Archives | Cumberland University, Lebanon, Tennessee

United States Supreme Court Justices Who Gradated from

Cumberland University

Howell Edmunds Jackson (1832-1895) | Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court (1893-1895)

Howell Edmunds Jackson, born April 8, 1832, graduated from Cumberland School of Law in 1886. The Paris, Tennessee native was the son of Dr. Alexander Jackson, who served as mayor of Jackson, TN, for two terms in the State Legislature and earned his medical degree from a university–a rare sight in the early 1800s. Howell Jackson followed in his father’s footsteps, graduating from Western Tennessee College in 1850. He studied for two years at the University of Virginia before beginning a clerkship under A.W.O. Totten and Milton Brown. Following his job, he began studying at Cumberland School of Law, graduating within one year and passing the bar shortly afterward. Law Professor Nathan Green bragged about Jackson’s academic achievements in a letter to his father, praising his performance in moot court. Jackson would go on to practice law in Jackson, TN before opening a joint legal practice in Memphis, TN the following year.

Upon Tennessee’s secession in 1861, Jackson was appointed to confiscate and sell Union loyalist’s property until he fled with his family to West Georgia months later. Due to his small role in the Confederate government, Jackson could not continue to practice law in Memphis without a presidential pardon, which President Andrew Johnson initially turned down. It was not until 1866 that his petition was granted upon resubmission. He opened a new joint legal practice in Memphis before the death of his first wife, prompting his return to practicing law in Jackson (Madison County), TN. Here, he served as a judge in Madison County courts and later as a law professor at Southwestern Baptist University (now Union University). 

In 1875, Jackson served as a judge in the temporary Court of Arbitration for Western Tennessee, which assisted with the large backlog of cases from the Civil War. Jackson ran against Thomas J. Freeman for a seat on the Tennessee Supreme Court in 1878 but lost by one vote. Unfazed by the loss, Jackson won a seat in the Tennessee House of Representatives, representing Madison County in 1880. He served just over one month in this role, where he was on six committees and became the chairman of the Public Ground and Buildings Committee. His role was interrupted by the election of a new U.S. Senator to represent Tennessee. The race became gridlocked between Republican-nominee Horace Maynard and the incumbent Democratic-nominee James Bailey. Bailey soon dropped out, naming Jackson as his replacement. He immediately resigned from the House of Representatives and began serving in the Senate on March 4, 1881. In this position, both Republicans and Democrats supported Jackson for his commitment and hard work ethic.

President Grover Cleveland, a close ally of Jackson’s, sought his advice on a man to fill the recently vacated judicial role of the United States Circuit Courts for the Sixth Circuit. Cleveland instead chose Jackson, who reluctantly accepted the nomination, was unanimously elected, and began serving from April 12, 1886 until March 4, 1893. Fellow Cumberland Law School Graduate Horace Harmon Lurton succeeded him.

On January 23, 1893, Supreme Court Justice Lucius Q.C. Lamar passed away, leaving an open seat to be filled. With only six weeks left in office, current president Benjamin Harrison wanted to leave the seat empty until his successor, Grover Cleveland, would take over. Harrison longed to place a Republican in the Supreme Court. Still, he understood that the Democrat-controlled system would not act on the nomination until the presidency switched to Cleveland, where a Democratic candidate would most certainly be nominated. Instead, Harrison nominated Democrat Howell Jackson on February 2, 1893. Many were confused by Harrison’s choice but accepted and elected Jackson unanimously sixteen days later. 

Jackson would go on to participate in cases such as Pollock v. Farmers’ Loan & Trust Co., Brass v. North Dakota, and Mobile & Ohio R.R. v. Tennessee. In his free time, Jackson would hunt foxes and watch horse races. He also served as an elder in the First Presbyterian Church of Nashville. Within months of serving on the Supreme Court, Jackson succumbed to both tuberculosis and dropsy. Despite traveling to warmer climates and back home to Tennessee multiple times, his ailments did not improve and caused him to miss many of his judicial duties and more significant cases. Seeking to return to his job, he traveled back to Washington D.C. in May of 1895, which worsened his health. Eleven weeks later, Howell Jackson passed away on August 8, 1895, at the age of 63. He is buried in Mount Olivet Cemetery in Nashville, TN.

Today, Cumberland University continues to honor Howell Jackson by naming one of our female dormitory halls, Howell Jackson Hall, in his memory.

Supreme Court Justices, October 1894 | Jackson: back row, far left.

First photo here | Second photo here

Horace Harmon Lurton (1844-1914) | Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court (1910-1914)

Horace Harmon Lurton, born February 26, 1844, graduated from Cumberland School of Law in February 1867. Although Lurton was born in Northern Kentucky, he was raised in Clarksville, Tennessee. In 1860, Lurton attended the Old University of Chicago but left soon afterward to join the Confederate Army. He served as the Sergeant Major in the 5th Tennessee Infantry, the 2nd Kentucky Infantry, and the 3rd Kentucky Cavalry between 1861 and 1865. During this time, he was captured by the Union forces, escaped, and captured again, where he was a prisoner of war in Johnson’s Island Prison Camp in Sandusky Bay, Ohio, near Lake Erie in Ohio. He was released shortly before the war ended. 

Now a free man, he returned to Tennessee and obtained his LL.B. at Cumberland School of Law, where he attended from 1865 until his graduation in 1867. He promptly returned to Clarksville to practice law until 1875, when he would become the youngest Chancellor of the Tennessee Chancery Court for the Sixth Judicial District-–a position he would hold for the next three years. Following this role, he returned to Clarksville to practice law once more from 1878 until 1886. The same year, Lurton was elected to the Tennessee Supreme Court, serving as the Chief Judge until 1893.

President Grover Cleveland nominated Lurton to the United States Circuit Courts for the Sixth Circuit and the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. Lurton would succeed fellow Cumberland School of Law graduate Howell E. Jackson, serving from March 27, 1893 until December 20, 1909. During this time, Lurton also served as Vanderbilt University’s Dean of the Law School between 1905 and 1909.

In late 1909, President William Howard Taft nominated Lurton as the new Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. He entered this position on January 3, 1910. His most notable case is Coyle v. Smith (1911). During his time in the Supreme Court, he served as a Circuit Justice for the Second Circuit (1910-1911), the Third Circuit (1911-1912), and the Seventh Circuit (1912-1914). He would serve in the Supreme Court until his death. Horace Lurton died of a heart attack in Atlantic City, New Jersey on July 12, 1914 at the age of 70. He is buried in Greenwood Cemetery in Clarksville.

Today, Cumberland University continues to honor Horace Lurton by naming one of our male dormitory halls, Horace Lurton Hall, in his memory.

Supreme Court Justices, 1911 | Lurton: back row, second on the left.

First photo here | Second photo here


Calvani, Terry. "The Early Legal Career of Howell Jackson" Vanderbilt Law Review 30, no. 1 (1977).

Cushman, Clare. The Supreme Court Justices: Illustrated Biographies, 1789-2012. 3rd Edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: CQ Press, 2013.

Hudspeth, Harvey Gresham. “In Service to the Confederacy: Howell Edmunds Jackson, West Tennessee’s Receiver of Sequestered Property, 1861-1862.” Tennessee Historical Quarterly 62, no. 4 (2003).

Supreme Court Historical Society. Accessed December 18, 2023.