Lewis Powell

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Lewis Franklin Powell
Former Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court
From: January 7, 1972 – June 26, 1987
Nominator Richard Nixon
Predecessor Hugo Black
Successor Anthony Kennedy
Religion Presbyterian

Lewis F. Powell Jr. (1907-1998) was appointed at the age of 64 by President Richard Nixon in 1972 to be an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, where he was a swing vote on controversial issues ranging from affirmative action to aid to parochial schools to homosexuality. From Virginia, where he was born and practiced law, he remained affiliated with the South and took the seat due to the retirement of another southerner, Justice Hugo Black. Powell served on the Supreme Court for only 15 years. His retirement in 1987 led to the hotly debated appointment by President Ronald Reagan of Robert Bork, who was defeated in confirmation hearings by the U.S. Senate.

His most important opinion was his concurrence in University of California Regents v. Bakke (1978), in which he opposed racial quotas in admissions processes but allowed the use of race as an admissions criterion.

He provided the fifth vote for the liberal wing of the court in Plyler v. Doe (1982), which required Texas to grant a free public education to the children of illegal aliens.