About Sherman Minton
Sherman "Shay" Minton (October 20, 1890 – April 9, 1965) was a Democratic United States Senator from Indiana and an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. He was the most educated justice during his time on the Supreme Court, having attended Indiana University, Yale and the Sorbonne. He served as a captain in World War I, then launched a legal and political career. In 1930, after multiple failed election attempts, and serving as a regional leader in the American Legion, he became a utility commissioner under the administration of Indiana Governor Paul V. McNutt.
In 1934, Minton was elected to the United States Senate. During the campaign, he defended New Deal legislation in a series of addresses in which he suggested it was not necessary to uphold the Constitution during the Great Depression crisis. Minton's campaign was denounced by his political opponents, and he received more widespread criticism for an address that became known as the "You Cannot Eat the Constitution" speech. As part of the New Deal Coalition, the fiercely partisan Minton championed President Franklin D. Roosevelt's unsuccessful court packing plans in the Senate and became one of his top Senate allies.
After Minton failed in his 1940 Senate re-election bid, Roosevelt appointed him as a judge to the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. After Roosevelt's death, President Harry Truman, who had developed a close friendship with Minton during their time together in the Senate, nominated him to the Supreme Court, where he served for seven years. An advocate of judicial restraint, Minton was a regular supporter of the majority opinions during his early years on the Court; he became a regular dissenter after President Dwight Eisenhower's appointees altered the Bench's composition. In 1956, poor health forced Minton's retirement, after which he traveled and lectured until his death in 1965.
Historians note the unusual contrast between his role as a partisan liberal Senator and his role as a conservative jurist. They attribute his shift in position as a reaction to the relationship between the New Deal senators and the conservative 1930s Court, which ruled much of the New Deal legislation unconstitutional. When Minton became a Supreme Court Justice, the Senate had become more conservative and the Court more activist, causing him to support conservative minority positions. As a Justice, Minton frequently played the role of peace-maker and consensus builder during a period when the Court was riven with feuds. He generally ruled in favor of order over freedom as a result of his broad interpretation of governmental powers. These rulings and their limited impact lead some historians to have a negative opinion of his judicial record. Other historians point out Minton's strong commitment to his judicial principles as a valuable attribute. In 1962, the Sherman Minton Bridge in southern Indiana and the Minton-Capehart Federal Building in Indianapolis were named in his honor.