- NAME: Warren Burger
- OCCUPATION: Supreme Court Justice
- BIRTH DATE: September 17, 1907
- DEATH DATE: June 25, 1995
- Did You Know?: Warren Burger is the longest-serving U.S. Supreme Court chief justice of the 20th century.
- EDUCATION: St. Paul College of Law (William Mitchell College), University of Minnesota
- PLACE OF BIRTH: St. Paul, Minnesota
- PLACE OF DEATH: Washington, D.C.
- Full Name: Warren Earl Burger
- AKA: Warren Burger
Best Known For
Warren Burger was the 15th chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, nominated by President Richard Nixon.
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In 1969, President Richard Nixon named Warren Burger chief justice of the Supreme Court. He didn't fulfill Nixon's desire to reverse Warren Court decisions (1953-1969). Burger's court upheld the 1966 Miranda decision, and Burger voted with the majority in the court's landmark 1973 decision, Roe v. Wade, establishing women's constitutional right to have abortions. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1988.
"We are more casual about qualifying the people we allow to act as advocates in the courtroom than we are about licensing electricians."
"Judges rule on the basis of law, not public opinion, and they should be totally indifferent to pressures of the times."
"Freedom of speech carries with it some freedom to listen."
Warren Earl Burger was the fourth of seven children born to a struggling St. Paul, Minnesota, working-class family. His father, Charles Joseph Burger, was a cargo inspector for the railroad and a traveling salesman. His mother, Katherine (Schnittger), was a homemaker. By the age of 9, young Warren was delivering newspapers to help with family finances. He was president of his school's student council and competed in hockey, football, track and swimming. Before graduating in 1925, he wrote articles on high school sports for the local newspaper.
After high school, Warren Burger worked for an insurance company while taking night classes at the University of Minnesota. He then attended St. Paul College of Law (now William Mitchell College), graduating with honors in 1931. From there, he joined a prominent St. Paul law firm, where he specialized in corporate and real-estate law, and taught night classes at his alma mater, St. Paul.
On November 8, 1933, Burger married Elvera Stormberg, a fellow student from the University of Minnesota. They would have two children together, Wade Allen Burger and Margaret Elizabeth Burger.
Gradually, Warren Burger became active in Republican politics, playing an important role in the gubernatorial campaigns of Harold Stassen in 1938, 1940 and 1942. He was the floor manager in Minnesota Governor Harold Stassen's bid for the presidential nomination at the 1948 and 1952 Republican National Conventions. Realizing Stassen wasn't going to be the nominee, Burger played a key role in nominating Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1952 by delivering the Minnesota delegation. In 1953, Eisenhower acknowledged Burger's effort by appointing him assistant U.S. attorney general for the Justice Department's Civil Division, and in 1955, nominated him to the U.S. Court of Appeals.
Over Burger's 13 years on the Court of Appeals, he was cautiously conservative on most issues, but on issues involving the rights of the criminally accused, he was known as a "law-and-order" judge. In public speeches, he often stated that the Fifth Amendment was an impediment to justice and that the courts had gone too far in favor of criminals. It was for these reasons that President Richard Nixon appointed Burger Earl Warren's successor as chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Over the previous 10 years, Earl Warren had presided over several landmark cases that expanded the rights of the accused, including Miranda v. Arizona, Gideon v. Wainwright and Mapp v. Ohio. Nixon hoped Burger would provide strong leadership needed to curb what he and many conservatives believed was the Warren Court's liberalism.
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The Supreme Court has presided over landmark cases that have changed the history of the United States. At times, the judges themselves have been the history makers, as in the case of Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American Justice; Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman to serve on the Supreme Court; and Sonia Sotomayor, the first Hispanic Supreme Court Justice. Here’s a look at the famous judges who have served on the United States' highest court.
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