Earl Warren biography
After serving in World War I, Earl Warren became a county district attorney. He was then elected to the California governorship, serving in that position from 1943 until 1953, when he was appointed chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. While on the court, Warren read the decision that desegregated American schools, Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka. After John F. Kennedy's assassination, Warren headed the investigating commission. He retired from the bench in 1969, and died in 1974 in Washington, D.C.
Born on March 19, 1891, in Los Angeles, California, Earl Warren was an influential politician and chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. He came from a working-class family of Norwegian immigrants. His father worked for the Southern Pacific Railroad. Growing up in Bakersfield, California, Warren did well in the town's public schools. He then attended University of California, Berkeley, for both his undergraduate degree and his law degree.
In 1914, Warren was admitted to the California Bar. He served in the U.S. Army during World War I. After the war, Warren soon committed himself to public service. He became the deputy district attorney for Alameda County.
Leading Californian Politician
In 1925, Warren was elected district attorney for the county. He made a controversial call during his time as district attorney. Warren advocated for the internment of Japanese Americans living in California during World War II. He later reportedly regretted helping to orchestrate this plan that removed more than 100,000 people of Japanese heritage from their homes and livelihoods.
As the war continued, Warren became one of the state's rising political stars. He won the governorship in 1942. As governor, a post he held for three terms, Warren was both fiscally conservative and socially progressive. He reduced taxes while creating an emergency fund for the state. Warren also increased state spending on higher education and caring for the elderly.
In 1948, Warren moved into national politics as the Republican vice presidential candidate. He was the running mate of Thomas Dewey, who was defeated in his presidential bid by Harry S. Truman. Warren finished up his term as governor in 1950.
Chief Justice of the Supreme Court
In 1953, President Dwight D. Eisenhower nominated Warren for the position of chief justice of the United States Supreme Court. He quickly won legislative approval and became the court's leading judge. Warren took over from the late Fred Vinson. The following year, Warren helped end school segregation with the court's decision on Brown v. Board of Education (1954). In his opinion on the case, he wrote that "in the field of public education the doctrine of 'separate but equal' has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal."
Warren was known for being a liberal and a judicial activist. As chief justice, he spearheaded radical changes in both law enforcement and voting districts. Warren supported the 1961 decision in Mapp v. Ohio, which declared that evidence gained through unlawful search or seizure could not be used against a suspect.
With 1964's Reynolds v. Sims, the court ruled that Alabama had reapportion its state legislative districts based on population. This decision was meant to undo the existing discriminatory districting, which reduced the voting power of urban African Americans.
In 1966, Warren handed down one of his most controversial decisions in Miranda v. Arizona. This ruling even divided the court, resulting in a 5-to-4 decision. This decision called for a suspect to be informed of certain rights at the time of his or her arrest.
In addition to his work on the Supreme Court, Warren also ran the 1963-1964 investigation into the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. He had been asked by President Lyndon B. Johnson to serve on this investigative committee, which became known as the Warren Commission. In the commission's report, they found that Kennedy had been killed by a lone gunman, Lee Harvey Oswald. They found no evidence of his involvement in a larger conspiracy.
After 16 years on the bench, Warren retired from the Supreme Court in 1969. He suffered a series of heart problems in his final years. Warren died on July 9, 1974, of congestive heart failure. His colleague, Associate Justice Thurgood Marshall, shared his thoughts about Warren with The New York Times, saying "When history is written, he'll go down as one of the greatest Chief Justices the country has ever been blessed with."