Geographic Connection to Pennsylvania: Spring Creek, Warren County
Supreme Court Justice and chief prosecutor at the Nuremberg War Crimes trials, Robert Houghwout Jackson was born in Spring Creek.
Mr. Jackson was born in Warren County in 1892 and lived there until his family moved to New York five years later. Through the course of his life, Mr. Jackson received the following titles from his illustrious career in law: “Lawyer,” “Solicitor General,” “Attorney General,” “Judge,” and finally “Chief Prosecutor” at the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials. As a result of his career in law, Mr. Jackson's contributions to society consisted of various speeches from his war crimes trial and desegregation trials.
Robert Houghwout Jackson was born in Spring Creek, Pennsylvania on the 13th of February, 1892 and resided there for five years with his family until moving to Frewsburg, New York. During his impressionable years, Mr. Jackson graduated from Frewsburg High School and then spent another year there in a post-graduate capacity. During this time, he began developing an interest for law, which eventually led him to being an apprentice at the Albany School of Law for one year yet never actually attending any college as a student. One year later, Mr. Jackson passed the New York Bar. This started him down the path of being a prominent trial lawyer in Jamestown, New York.
In addition to his abilities as a trial lawyer, Mr. Jackson was quickly recognized as a viable competitor in politics when he won a seat as a Democratic State Committeeman. Though he was ideally suited for this position due to his charisma and energy for the law, Mr. Jackson quickly realized that electoral politics were not suited for him due to the “behind-the-scene” negotiations and the corruptness inherent with this kind of profession. Because of this affront to his temperament and moral fiber, he returned to his private legal practice.
During the Great Depression, Mr. Jackson answered his President's call for help by acting as legal council for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Subsequently, he was named General Council during his tenure as Assistant to the Attorney General, and then later he was named Solicitor General and then finally Attorney General. President Roosevelt personally appointed Mr. Jackson to his position of Attorney General in 1941 because of his effective advice and advocacy. Throughout his life, Mr. Jackson maintained a reputation for fairness and high moral conduct that were present in both his professional and personal life.
Although these accomplishments are nothing to downplay, Mr. Jackson considered his most notable accomplishment to be his involvement in the Nuremberg trials at the end of World War Two. His position as Chief Prosecutor for the United States was noted to establish the standards in international law for bringing war criminals to justice. This time in his life also helped establish and reinforce the reputation he had for fair, just, and proportionate justice.
President Truman selected Robert Jackson to be the chief prosecutor of the trials in April of 1945 because of his reputation for both his moral fiber and his speaking abilities. It took Mr. Jackson two days to decide to accept the tedious role, and upon arriving in London, he realized just how tedious. Jackson first drafted a set of laws that would appeal to the world powers each wanting justice in there own interpretations of justice. In the end, the tribunal decided on 4 major infractions that all the defendants would be evaluated upon. Notwithstanding this, it was Jackson's closing arguments that brought many of the defendants to tears and persuaded the Chief Judge into his decision:
It is against such a background that these defendants now ask this Tribunal to say that they are not guilty of planning, executing, or conspiring to commit this long list of crimes and wrongs. They stand before the record of this Trial as bloodstained Gloucester stood by the body of his slain king. He begged of the widow, as they beg of you: “Say I slew them not.” And the Queen replied, “Then say they were not slain. But dead they are...” If you were to say of these men that they are not guilty, it would be as true to say that there has been no war, there are no slain, there has been no crime.
Following the Nuremberg trials, Mr. Jackson returned to the Supreme Court as a judge to continue his passion for both compassion and equality for all who come before him. This was made abundantly clear from his work in the 1954 case of Brown v Board of Education which brought about desegregation of races in the public school system. Shortly after this act of moral courage and an unwavering sense of duty, Robert Jackson succumbed to a heart attack on October 9, 1954—dying at the age of 62. It is notable to mention that his funeral was visited by every member of the Supreme Court who noted later that Justice Jackson managed to maintain the old traditions and values while erecting a workable way to use them during his generation—and beyond.
Tribute to Mary Willard Jamestown, NY June 10, 1931.
Tribute to Milton J. Fletcher Jamestown, NY June 10, 1932.
The Lawyer; Leader or Mouthpiece? Address before the National Conference of Bar Association Delegates, Milwaukee, WI Aug. 27, 1934.
The Bar and the New Deal, Address at the Association of American Law Schools' annual dinner, Chicago, IL Dec. 28, 1934.
Children of the Rich and Children of the Poor,3 Vital Speeches 526 (1937) (presentation before the Joint Congressional Committee on Constitutionality of the Wages and Hours Bill, Washington, D.C., June 2, 1937).
Essential Differences Between the Republican and Democratic Parties, Debate on Town Hall Program, New York City April 11, 1940.
A Progressive Democracy Washington, D.C. January 19, 1941.
Full Faith and Credit—The Lawyer's Clause of the Constitution Benjamin N. Cardozo Lecture, Association of the Bar of the City of New York Dec. 7, 1944.
Opening Statement Before the International Military Tribunal Nuremberg, Germany. November 21, 1945.
Closing Address Before the International Military Tribunal Nuremberg, Germany. July 26, 1946.
Nuremberg In Retrospect: Legal Answer To International Lawlessness excerpted from Canadian Bar Association address Banff, Alberta. September 1, 1949.
Wartime Security and Liberty Under Law Article written for the Buffalo Law Review-Spring, 1951.