Attorney General Jackson. Photo from Texas Bar Journal.
Robert Houghwout Jackson was born in Spring Creek, Pennsylvania on February 13, 1892. Five years later his family moved to Frewsburg, New York, a nearby village to Jamestown, New York. He graduated from Frewsburg High School in 1909 and spent a post-graduate year at Jamestown High School. He did not attend college, but apprenticed in a law office and attended Albany Law School for one year. He took the New York State Bar exam at age 21, and became a prominent trial lawyer in Jamestown. He went on to become Solicitor General, Attorney General and an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. He represented the United States at the London Conference that set up the International Military Tribunal, and served as Chief of Counsel for the United States at the first Nuremberg Trial in 1945 and 1946.
He spent the first forty-two years of his life in Jamestown, raising a family, practicing law, actively participating in the political arena and serving the community. During those years, he came to embrace the highest principals of conduct and fairness. Those values would come to characterize both his personal and professional lives.
Jackson with family, circa 1940. Photo from Fenton History Center.
In 1934, he answered the call of President Franklin D. Roosevelt to serve as general counsel at the Internal Revenue Service. His decision to move to Washington, D.C. as a public servant was a fateful one, as it steered his life into becoming one of the most remarkable personal stories in American history. He rose from relative obscurity in a small town to be a Supreme Court Justice in 1941, a mere seven years after starting his public career in 1934.
Despite his remarkable achievements in government service, Jackson believed his greatest accomplishments were the international legal principles established by the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg, Germany
following World War II. Jackson served as Chief of Counsel for the
United States in charge of prosecuting the highest ranking Nazi leaders
Supreme Court Justice Jackson in chambers. Photo from Fenton History Center.
Jackson's brilliance and courage in bringing Nazi war criminals to justice set the standards for modern international law, standards to which the world continues to look today. After serving at Nuremberg, Justice Jackson returned to the bench of the United States Supreme Court where he continued to build his reputation as being one of the brightest and most articulate judges ever to have served on the Court.
Shortly after participating in the unanimous decision in the famous desegregation case of 1954, Brown vs. Board of Education, Jackson suffered a fatal heart attack and died on October 9, 1954. He was 62. Every Justice of the Supreme Court came to Jamestown for his funeral. He is buried in the Maple Grove Cemetery on Frew Run Road in Frewsburg, New York, under a simple headstone that reads: “He kept the ancient landmarks and built the new.”
Chief of Counsel Jackson at the Nuremberg Trial. Photo by Ray D'Addario