Howell Edmunds Jackson, US Senator & Supreme Court Justice

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Howell Edmunds Jackson, US Senator & Supreme Court Justice

Birthplace: Paris, Henry County, Tennessee, United States
Death: August 08, 1895 (63)
Nashville, Davidson County, Tennessee, United States (tuberculosis)
Place of Burial: Nashville, Davidson County, Tennessee, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Dr. Alexander Jackson and Mary Jackson
Husband of Mary Elizabeth Jackson and Sophie Harrison Jackson
Father of Louise McAlister; Bessie Jackson; Howell Edmunds Jackson, Jr. and Wallace Jackson
Brother of Gen. William Hicks Jackson (CSA) and Mary Jackson
Half brother of James F Jackson; Milton Jackson; Martha Jackson; Olivia Penn; Samuel Miller Jackson and 1 other

Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Howell Edmunds Jackson, US Senator & Supreme Court Justice

Howell Edmunds Jackson (April 8, 1832 – August 8, 1895) was an American jurist and politician. He served on the United States Supreme Court, in the U.S. Senate, United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, and the Tennessee House of Representatives. He authored notable opinions on the Interstate Commerce Act and the Sherman Anti-Trust Act. His secretary on the Supreme Court was James Clark McReynolds who became a Supreme Court Justice.

Early life

Jackson was born in Paris, Tennessee to Alexander Jackson, a doctor, and Mary Hurt Jackson, the daughter of a Baptist minister, both natives of Virginia. He moved to Jackson, Tennessee, with his parents at the age of eight where his father would be elected as a Whig to the state legislature and subsequently as Jackson's mayor.

Howell graduated from West Tennessee College (now Union University) in 1849, where he studied Greek and Latin, then attended the University of Virginia for two years and then earned a law degree from Cumberland University. He then returned to Tennessee and clerked for Judge A.W.O. Totten of the Tennessee Supreme Court, and Milton Brown, a former U.S. Representative. The next year Howell attended Cumberland School of Law in Lebanon, Tennessee and graduated in 1856. Upon admission to the bar, he practiced first in Jackson, but was unable to establish a successful practice, so he relocated to Memphis and partnered with David M. Currin, a prominent Democrat. In Memphis he married Sophia Malloy, the daughter of a local client.

Civil War

Although opposed to secession, he served the Confederacy as a receiver of property confiscated from Unionists during the Civil War. His brother William Hicks Jackson was a Confederate brigadier-general.

After the fall of Memphis in 1862, he and his family spent the remainder of the war in LaGrange, Georgia.

Career in Memphis, TN

After the war, Jackson took an oath of allegiance to the Union, which allowed him to return to the practice of law in Memphis. He took a new partner, Bedford M. Estes, and their practice grew to represent prominent businesses, including banks, railroads and some northern business interests. In 1873 he lost his wife during a yellow fever outbreak, leaving him to care for their children. He subsequently married Mary E. Harding, who was the daughter of William G. Harding, a wealthy Nashville landowner. This marriage put him in contact with numerous prominent citizens and the estate her father gave them provided his family with the appearance of wealth. However, Howell's family was not wealthy, in part, because of the trouble he had collecting payments from clients. He returned to Jackson in 1874 and served on the Court of Arbitration for West Tennessee on two occasions.

Later career

He was elected to the Tennessee House of Representatives as a Democrat in 1880. After taking his seat, a bitter fight ensued over the election of a U.S. Senator by the Tennessee General Assembly. Jackson was promoted as a compromise candidate and with the support of both Democrats and Republicans, succeeded on the first ballot.

He took office on March 4, 1881 and served for five years, during which time he supported issues such as civil service reforms, creation of an Interstate Commerce Commission, and restrictions of Chinese immigration.

Jackson resigned from the Senate on April 14, 1886 to accept appointment by President Grover Cleveland to the United States circuit court for the Sixth Circuit, which then became the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. He served with distinction and wrote notable opinions on the Interstate Commerce Act and the Sherman Anti-Trust Act.

U.S. Supreme Court

He served on the Sixth Circuit until 1893, when President Benjamin Harrison, despite the difference in their respective political parties, nominated him to be an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States upon the death of Lucius Q. C. Lamar. His nomination was non-partisan, and was announced on February 2, 1893. He was confirmed only 16 days later by a unanimous Senate vote at the age of 60.

He wrote forty-six opinions and four dissents. His experience in patent law served the Court well since it was clogged with patent cases at that time.

Jackson contracted tuberculosis one year after joining the Court. His brother William asked Congress to pass a retirement bill for him, but Jackson recovered and returned to the Court. There he cast one final vote on a case brought over the constitutionality of the national income tax passed in August 1894, which levied a 2% tax on income over $4,000. Jackson's return sparked attention, and one reporter commented that:

He interested the crowd more than all the rest of the bench; that his life can last but a short time and that it will probably be shortened by the effort which he has made to attend the hearing.

Jackson, however, did not cast a tie-breaking vote. The Court held that the tax was unconstitutional but Jackson voted with the minority. In a stinging dissent he lambasted the Court's ruling stating that it "was the most disastrous blow ever struck at the Constitutional power of Congress."

Three months later he died in Nashville. Eighteen years later the Sixteenth Amendment was passed, giving Congress power to enact the disputed tax.

Howell Jackson is buried in Nashville's Mount Olivet Cemetery.

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Howell Edmunds Jackson, US Senator & Supreme Court Justice's Timeline

April 8, 1832
Paris, Henry County, Tennessee, United States
December 16, 1867
August 8, 1895
Age 63
Nashville, Davidson County, Tennessee, United States
Mount Olivet Cemetery, Nashville, Davidson County, Tennessee, United States