John Catron (Kettering) (c.1786 - 1863)

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Nicknames: "Catron;Ketron;"
Death: Died
Managed by: Doug Robinson
Last Updated:

About John Catron (Kettering)

John Catron (January 7, 1786 – May 30, 1865) was an American jurist who served as a US Supreme Court justice from 1837 to 1865.

Early life

Little is known of Catron's early life, but he served in the War of 1812 under Andrew Jackson. He read law to be admitted to the Tennessee bar in 1815 and was in private practice at Sparta in the Cumberland Mountains of Tennessee from 1815 to 1818, while simultaneously serving as a prosecuting attorney of that city. He established a land law practice in Nashville in 1818, in which he continued until 1824.


From 1824-1834, he served on the Tennessee Supreme Court of Errors and Appeals, being elevated to Chief Justice of that court in 1831. In 1834, the Tennessee state legislature abolished the chief justice position, and Catron retired and returned to private practice in Nashville. During the election of 1836, Catron directed Martin Van Buren's presidential campaign in Tennessee against native son Hugh Lawson White.

In 1836 Congress, by 5 Stat. 176, expanded the United States Supreme Court from seven to nine members. This allowed then-President Andrew Jackson an opportunity to name two new justices on March 3, 1837, his last full day in office. Only one of Jackson's nominees accepted, Catron. The newly seated Senate of the subsequent Congress confirmed Catron's appointment five days later. He took the judicial oath on May 1, 1837.

Catron served as an associate justice until his death in 1865 at age 79. Catron owned slaves all of his adult life and he supported slavery and sided with the majority in the Dred Scott v. Sandford case. But, he opposed secession and urged Tennessee to remain with the Union. For a brief time after Tennessee seceded from the Union but prior to Nashville being occupied by Federal troops, Catron left his residence in Nashville and took up residence in Louisville, KY. He died in 1865 in Nashville, Tennessee.

After Catron's death, Congress eliminated his seat under the Judicial Circuits Act from the Court as a way to prevent President Andrew Johnson from appointing any justices.

Catron is interred at Nashville's Mount Olivet Cemetery.

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John Catron, US Supreme Ct's Timeline

Age 21
May 30, 1863
Age 77