Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

Bruce, James, 1892-1980; Marshall, John, 1755-1835.; Adams, John, 1735-1826; Stone, Harlan Fiske, 1872-1946; Hughes, Charles Evans, 1862-1948.; Roosevelt, Franklin D. (Franklin Delano), 1882-1945; Vinson, Fred M., 1890-1953; Roberts, Owen J. (Owen Josephu
Presidential appointments; Judges; Cabinet officers

Longhand Note of President Harry S. Truman, January 9, 1953. President's Secretary's Files - Longhand Notes.

Jan. 9 1953

I was talking to Hon. Jarves Bruce night before last at the dinner for the "Little Cabinet." The appointment of judges came up and John Adaine and John Marshall's "midnight" appointments to the court.

Naturally we discussed what had taken place in the last few years and particularly the appointment of a Chief Justice on the death of Chief Justice Stone.

I was on the Williamsburg when Chief Justice Stone died. We were in the lower Chesapeake Bay. I ordered an immediate return to Washington and began a study of the office of Chief Justice. There had been only twelve appointment up to that time. Mine would be No. 13. So I began to canvas the back ground and records of the members of the high court. No conclusion was reached.

One day I had an inspiration and called the retired former Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes. I told him I would like to come out to see him on a matter of business. He told me that I could not do that but that he would come to see me immediately.

He arrived at the Presidential office in a short time and I told him I wanted to discuss with him eligibles for Chief Justice. He told me that he suspected that was what I wanted and he pull a piece of old fashioned yellow foolscap from his pocket with names of the Justices of the Supreme Court and Judges of the various Courts of Appeals and State Courts on it.

We discussed them one by one or he did. Finally when we came to the end of the list he told me that the Chief Justice of the United States should not only know the law but that he should understand politics and government. Then he said, "You have a Secretary of the Treasury who has been a Congressman, a Judge of the Court of Appeal, and an executive officer in President Roosevelt's and your cabinets." He thought that Fred Vinson was fully qualified for Chief Justice.

I called Justice Owen Roberts in Philadelphia and asked him to come and see me. I told him what I wanted to talk about.

He came and when we were seated he came forth with the same sort of yellow foolscap with a red line down the left hand side that Mr. Hughes had used. We went over very nearly the same list that Mr. Hughes and I had used and Justice Roberts came up with exactly the same recommendation as Justice Hughes had made.

The President-elect of Uruguay was at the White House for a luncheon a short time after that and I talked with Secretary of the Treasury Vinson about the Supreme Court and asked him if he'd accept an appointment as Chief Justice if it were offered to him. I told him that I was not offering the appointment but that I'd like to know his attitude.

He said that any man who had been in the law would jump at such an offer and of course he'd take it if he had the chance. No further conversation took place.

I went back to the Presidential office and at 4 o'clock at the piese conference announced the appointments of Fred M. Vinson as Chief Justice of the United States and John W. Snyder as Secretary of the Treasury. Mr. Snyder had not been told what would happen and Sec. Vinson had only received a feeler. Both were agreeably and very much surprised.


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