Horace Harmon Lurton (February 24, 1844 - July 12, 1914) was an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court from 1910 to 1914. He is notable as one of the oldest appointments to the Court, as a strict constructionist, and as an unusual pick due to his party and Confederate service. In addition to his service on the Supreme Court, he also served as a Judge of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, Dean of Vanderbilt Law, Chief Justice of Tennessee, and Justice of the Tennessee Supreme Court.
The late Justice was born on February 24, 1844 in Newport, Kentucky. At an early age, Larmon moved with his parents to Clarksville, Tennessee, a town that he always considered as home. He enrolled in Douglas University in Chicago, however the American Civil War broke out before he could complete his studies.
Service in the Civil War
When the American Civil War began, Lurton enlisted in the Confederate Army. He is reported to have reenlisted twice; after being medically discharged, and after escaping from a Prisoner of war camp. While serving under General John Hunt Morgan, Lurton was captured during a raid in Ohio. While information regarding his second incarceration is unavailable, it is believed that he was paroled by President Abraham Lincoln.
When the war came to an end, Lurton enrolled in Cumberland University’s School of Law, where he graduated from in 1867. The late Justice was admitted to the Tennessee Bar and practiced law until receiving election as a Chancellor in 1875. When his term ended in 1878, Lurton returned to legal practice.
In 1886, he was elected to the Tennessee Supreme Court, the start of a lengthy judicial career. He was elevated to Chief Justice in January 1893. He held that office for several months until he was appointed to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals by President Grover Cleveland. While on the Sixth Circuit, Lurton met and developed a friendship with then Chief Judge and future President William Taft.
Supreme Court Service
Lurton’s friendship with Taft led to his appointment to the Supreme Court, replacing the Honorable Rufus Peckham who had passed away in October 1909. Lurton was sworn in on January 3, 1910 and served on the Court until his death in Atlantic City, New Jersey on July 12, 1914. After his memorial service, he was interred in Greenwood Cemetery in his hometown of Clarksville, Tennessee. He was replaced by James McReynolds on September 5, 1914.
- Hall, Kermit. “The Oxford Guide to the Supreme Court of the United States, Second Edition”. New York:Oxford University Press, 2005. ISBN 978-0-19-534094-5. Pg 597