Horace Harmon Lurton

Horace Harmon Lurton

Infobox Judge
name = Horace Harmon Lurton

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office = Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court
termstart = January 3 1910
termend = July 12 1914
nominator = William Howard Taft
appointer =
predecessor = Rufus Wheeler Peckham
successor = James Clark McReynolds
office2 =
termstart2 =
termend2 =
nominator2 =
appointer2 =
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birthdate = birth date|1844|2|26|mf=y
birthplace = Newport, Kentucky
deathdate = death date and age|1914|7|12|1844|2|26|mf=y
deathplace = Atlantic City, New Jersey
spouse =

Horace Harmon Lurton (February 26, 1844 – July 12, 1914) was an American jurist who served for four years as a Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. Appointed at the age of 65, Lurton was the oldest justice appointed to the Court.


Lurton was born in Newport, Kentucky, the son of a physician turned clergyman. He was a sergeant major in the Confederate Army during the Civil War, serving in the 5th Tennessee Infantry, 2nd Kentucky Infantry, and 3rd Kentucky Cavalry. He was twice captured by Union forces, the second time sent as a prisoner of war to Johnson's Island Prison Camp in Sandusky Bay, Ohio. He was later paroled by President Lincoln because of pleas for mercy from his mother.

Education and early practice

Before the war, he attended Douglas University, and then earned an LL.B. in 1867 at Cumberland School of Law which was then part of Cumberland University, but is now part of Samford University. At Cumberland he was a member of Beta Theta Pi. Lurton then practiced law in Clarksville, Tennessee.

Career as a judge

In 1875, Lurton left private practice after being chosen as a judge of the Tennessee Chancery Court for the Sixth Chancery Division. After three years, Lurton then returned to his practice until 1886, when he was appointed to the Tennessee Supreme Court. From this position, in 1893, Lurton was appointed by President Grover Cleveland to a federal appellate judgeship on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. While still on that court, Lurton first taught at, then served as dean of the Vanderbilt University School of Law from 1905 until 1909.

upreme Court service

In 1909, Lurton's friend, President William Howard Taft, named him to a seat on the Supreme Court that had been vacated by the death of Justice Rufus Wheeler Peckham. This was the first of Taft's six Supreme Court appointments, and surprised some observers because unlike Taft, Lurton was a Democrat.

Lurton sided most frequently on the court with Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

Lurton took his seat on the Court at the beginning of 1910. His tenure on the Court was brief, as he served only four years before dying in Atlantic City, New Jersey, in 1914.


*Lurton was a family friend of noted historian and jurist Samuel Cole Williams.


* [http://www.fjc.gov/servlet/tGetInfo?jid=1441 Federal Judicial Center bio of Lurton]
*Irons, Peter. "A People's History of the Supreme Court", p. 260. Penguin Books, 2000. Peter Irons wrote critically of Lurton's lack of impact on American Constitutional Law, even though Lurton only served on the High Court for four years before his death.

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