Horace Harmon Lurton
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States
In office
January 3, 1910 – July 12, 1914[1]
Nominated byWilliam Howard Taft
Preceded byRufus W. Peckham
Succeeded byJames Clark McReynolds
Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
In office
March 27, 1893 – December 20, 1909
Nominated byGrover Cleveland
Preceded byHowell Edmunds Jackson
Succeeded byLoyal Edwin Knappen
Personal details
Horace Harmon Lurton

(1844-02-26)February 26, 1844
Newport, Kentucky
DiedJuly 12, 1914(1914-07-12) (aged 70)
Atlantic City, New Jersey
Cause of deathHeart attack
Resting placeGreenwood Cemetery, Clarksville, Tennessee
Political partyDemocratic
EducationOld University of Chicago
Cumberland School of Law (LLB)
Military service
Allegiance Confederate States
Branch/service Confederate States Army
Years of service1861–1864
RankFirst Lieutenant
UnitTennessee 5th Tennessee Infantry
Kentucky 2nd Kentucky Cavalry
Kentucky 3rd Kentucky Cavalry[2]
Battles/warsAmerican Civil War
Justice Lurton, bottom left, with his home in Nashville, his wife, center, and children

Horace Harmon Lurton (February 26, 1844 – July 12, 1914) was a Confederate soldier and later, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.

Early life

Lurton was born on February 26, 1844, in Newport, Kentucky.[3] He attended the Old University of Chicago,[note 1] then received a Bachelor of Laws in 1867 from Cumberland School of Law (then part of Cumberland University, now part of Samford University).[3]

He served in the Confederate States Army as a Sergeant Major with the 5th Tennessee Infantry, 2nd Kentucky Infantry and 3rd Kentucky Cavalry from 1861 to 1865.[3] 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.[citation needed] He claimed he was later paroled by President Lincoln because of pleas for mercy from his mother but this was merely an anecdote he often repeated to dinner guests, according to historian Roger Long.[citation needed] Mr. Long explains in detail what the evidence shows in an article he wrote in the December 1994 edition of Civil War Times.[citation needed] According to Mr. Long, apparently he was paroled from Johnson's Island only when he signed the oath of allegiance, not because of any act of the president.[citation needed] Mr Long's article includes interesting details about Lurton's service as well as possible reasons for the anecdote he was so fond of repeating.[citation needed]

He entered private practice in Clarksville, Tennessee from 1867 to 1875.[3] He was Chancellor for the Tennessee Chancery Court for the Sixth Judicial District from 1875 to 1878.[3] He resumed private practice in Clarksville from 1878 to 1886.[3] He was a justice of the Tennessee Supreme Court from 1886 to 1893.[3]

U.S. Circuit Court

Lurton was nominated by President Grover Cleveland on March 22, 1893, to a joint seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit and the United States Circuit Courts for the Sixth Circuit vacated by Judge Howell Edmunds Jackson.[3] He was confirmed by the United States Senate on March 27, 1893, and received his commission the same day.[3] His service terminated on December 20, 1909, due to his elevation to the Supreme Court.[3]

Concurrent with his service on the Sixth Circuit, Lurton served as Dean of the law department of Vanderbilt University from 1905 to 1909.[3]

U.S. Supreme Court

On December 13, 1909, President William Howard Taft nominated Lurton as an associate justice of the United States Supreme Court,[4] to succeed Rufus W. Peckham. He was confirmed by the Senate on December 20, 1909,[4] and was sworn into office on January 3, 1910.[1]

He was Circuit Justice for the Second Circuit from January 10, 1910, until January 8, 1911, Circuit Justice for the Third Circuit from January 9, 1911, until March 17, 1912, and Circuit Justice for the Seventh Circuit from March 18, 1912, until July 12, 1914.[3] His service terminated on July 12, 1914, due to his death in Atlantic City, New Jersey.[3]

Lurton sided most frequently on the court with Associate Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.,[5] a progressive Supreme Court justice. The most notable opinion he authored was probably the opinion of the Court in Coyle v. Smith, 221 U.S. 559 (1911), which held that the federal government could not tell a state where to locate its capital, as all states must be on "equal footing."[citation needed]


Lurton's tenure on the Court was brief, as he served only four years before dying in Atlantic City, New Jersey of a heart attack on July 12, 1914. He is buried in Greenwood Cemetery in Clarksville, Tennessee.[6]

Legacy and honors

During World War II the Liberty ship SS Horace H. Lurton was built in Brunswick, Georgia, and named in his honor.[7]

See also


  1. ^ Lurton's Federal Judicial Center biography indicates he attended "Douglas University", which actually was a pejorative term for the Old University of Chicago, stemming from Stephen Douglas's involvement with the institution.


  1. ^ a b "Justices 1789 to Present". Washington, D.C.: Supreme Court of the United States. Retrieved February 15, 2022.
  2. ^ "Compiled service records of Confederate Soldiers who served in organizations from the State of Kentucky". National Archives. Archived from the original on February 26, 2018. Retrieved February 25, 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Horace Harmon Lurton at the Biographical Directory of Federal Judges, a publication of the Federal Judicial Center.
  4. ^ a b McMillion, Barry J. (January 28, 2022). Supreme Court Nominations, 1789 to 2020: Actions by the Senate, the Judiciary Committee, and the President (PDF) (Report). Washington, D.C.: Congressional Research Service. Retrieved February 15, 2022.
  5. ^ Randal Rust. "Horace Harmon Lurton". Archived from the original on April 11, 2019. Retrieved April 11, 2019.
  6. ^ Young, Ed (March 1, 2018). "Horace Harmon Lurton". Tennessee Encyclopedia. Nashville, Tennessee: Tennessee Historical Society. Archived from the original on December 26, 2019. Retrieved April 7, 2020.
  7. ^ Williams, Greg H. (July 25, 2014). The Liberty Ships of World War II: A Record of the 2,710 Vessels and Their Builders, Operators and Namesakes, with a History of the Jeremiah O'Brien. McFarland. ISBN 978-1476617541. Archived from the original on October 14, 2021. Retrieved December 9, 2017.

Further reading