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
Party Democrat[1]
Spouse(s) Josephine Pierce Rucker
Religion Presbyterian
Military Service
Allegiance United States
Service/branch United States Army
Service Years 1942 – 1945
Rank Colonel

Lewis F. Powell, Jr. (September 19, 1907 – August 25, 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 Regents of the University of California 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.


  1. Retired Justice Lewis Powell Dies at 90. The Washington Post. Retrieved August 31st, 2020