The Supreme Court The Supreme Court - Image of hands holding a gavel.
Check local listings
Home Timeline Games Supreme Court History
Expanding Civil Rights
Primary Sources
E-Mail this Page Print Format Glossary

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt nominates Hugo Black to the Supreme Court, August 12, 1937


Hugo Black traveled an unlikely path to the bench of the Supreme Court, growing up in rural Alabama and never graduating from high school. Black briefly attended Birmingham Medical College, then entered the University of Alabama Law School, where he earned a bachelor of laws degree in 1906. He worked for a time in a successful private practice in Birmingham, briefly served as a judge in the Birmingham Police Court, and then, as the public prosecutor for Jefferson County, won local fame for his investigation of brutal police interrogations. Black next served a brief one-year stint in the army, then returned to private practice, and finally entered politics. In 1926, he was elected to the U.S. Senate, where he was an ardent populist and one of President Roosevelt's most dedicated supporters, even backing the president's unpopular and ultimately failed proposal to add more justices to the Court. President Roosevelt nominated Black to the Supreme Court on August 12, 1937, to fill the seat vacated by the outgoing and staunchly conservative Justice Willis Van Devanter. Five days later, Black was confirmed by a vote of 63 to 16.