For Me, Robert H. Jackson is Alive

As one without a law degree and with no credentials as a historian, it is a great honor for me to pay a layman's tribute to the most eminent alumnus of the Albany Law School: Robert H. Jackson. He is justly famous as one of the most eloquent Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States, but perhaps no judicial comments have ever equaled his opening and closing statements at the Nuremberg trials. His determination to make those trials reflect our highest principles of justice and morality is incomparable. Robert Jackson has been gone for fifty years, but his legacy lives on. With new and different war crimes trials on the front pages of every newspaper, Jacksonís legacy takes on ever more powerful meaning.

The Nuremberg Roles of Justice Robert H. Jackson

It is an honor to be at this conference, and especially on this panel, with heroes. “Heroes” is not too strong a word. My friends Whitney Harris, Henry King and Benjamin Ferencz, who are present here, and other senior Nuremberg prosecutors such as Justice Benjamin Kaplan and Professor Bernard Meltzer who are not at this conference, are among my own heroes, but that is a personal point. Their general, permanent significance includes the fact that they are heroes of the law for what they did sixty years ago and have done ever since to develop the law and legacy of Nuremberg.

A Tribute to Robert H. Jackson by his Nephew

In the courtroom or out of it, Robert Jackson was a remarkable man. This judgment, however, is not entirely objective since he was my uncle. From an early age, he was his own man. Although his father insisted that he become a doctor, he was determined instead to become a lawyer. When his father refused financial assistance, young Robert borrowed money from his uncle and headed for Albany Law School where he completed the course in a single year.

Bob Jackson Remembered

Let no one doubt that Robert H. Jackson was a remarkable individual, with talents far beyond what might be expected in even the brightest of upstate country lawyers. Before Jackson came to Washington, while he was still relatively unknown, Judge Cardozo predicted: "You will [hear of him] -- in time." Later, Justice Brandeis (who, as Chief Justice Rehnquist has commented, "was one who did not bestow compliments casually") said that Jackson should be the Solicitor General for life. Thus, when he came to the Court in October Term in 1941 his brethren already could tell that a new star was in their midst. Indeed, as Attorney General on the occasion of the Court's 150th anniversary he had delivered, in an address to the Court, a short summary of the Court's role in the continual emergence of the American Republic -- address that was a model of thoughtful eloquence.

Remembering Robert H. Jackson at Nuremberg Decades Ago

After World War II ended in 1945, the organizers of the upcoming Nuremberg trials had an elusive vacancy on their personnel list. They needed a young military officer who (1) was already taught never to say no, (2) was short some six months of additional service before becoming eligible to resume civilian life, (3) possessed a good working grasp of the Russian language, and (4) had a solid record of experience and achievement in the legal profession. What a combo! Believe it or not, yours truly was found to have all such qualifications and was solicited to join the American legal team at Nuremberg.