Horace Harmon Lurton, Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court

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Horace Harmon Lurton

Death: July 12, 1914 (70)
Immediate Family:

Son of Lycurgus L. Lurton and Sarah Ann Lurton
Husband of Mary Frances Lurton

Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Horace Harmon Lurton, Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court


Horace Harmon Lurton (February 26, 1844 – July 12, 1914) was an American jurist who served for four years as a Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. Appointed at the age of 65, Lurton was the oldest justice appointed to the Court.


Lurton was born in Newport, Kentucky, the son of a physician turned clergyman. He was a Sergeant Major in the Confederate Army during the Civil War, serving in the 5th Tennessee Infantry, 2nd Kentucky Infantry, and 3rd Kentucky Cavalry. He was twice captured by Union forces, the second time sent as a prisoner of war to Johnson's Island Prison Camp in Sandusky Bay, Ohio. He was later paroled by President Lincoln because of pleas for mercy from his mother.

Education and early practice

Before the war, he attended Douglas University, and then earned an LL.B. in 1867 at Cumberland School of Law which was then part of Cumberland University, but is now part of Samford University. At Cumberland he was a member of Beta Theta Pi. Lurton then practiced law in Clarksville, Tennessee.

Career as a judge

In 1875, Lurton left private practice after being chosen as a judge of the Tennessee Chancery Court for the Sixth Chancery Division. After three years, Lurton then returned to his practice until 1886, when he was appointed to the Tennessee Supreme Court. From this position, in 1893, Lurton was appointed by President Grover Cleveland to a federal appellate judgeship on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. While still on that court, Lurton first taught at, then served as dean of the Vanderbilt University School of Law from 1905 until 1909.

Supreme Court service

In 1909, Lurton's friend, President William Howard Taft, named him to a seat on the Supreme Court that had been vacated by the death of Justice Rufus Wheeler Peckham. This was the first of Taft's six Supreme Court appointments, and surprised some observers because unlike Taft, Lurton was a Democrat.

Lurton sided most frequently on the court with Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., a progressive Supreme Court justice.

Lurton took his seat on the Court at the beginning of 1910. His tenure on the Court was brief, as he served only four years before dying in Atlantic City, New Jersey, in 1914.


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