Press, Statesmen Hail Choice of Frankfurter to Supreme Court
Menu JTA Search

Press, Statesmen Hail Choice of Frankfurter to Supreme Court

Download PDF for this date

Newspapers of all shades of political opinion joined leaders in public life today in acclaiming President Roosevelt’s choice of Prof. Felix Frankfurter to the United States Supreme Court. The New York Herald Tribune and the New York Sun, both accounted among the New Deal’s bitterest critics, warmly praised the appointment, along with the New York Times, the World-Telegram and the Post.

In a leading editorial captioned “A Welcome Appointment,” the Tribune said: “From every point of view the President’s nomination of Prof. frankfurter to the Supreme Court deserves high praise…. Mr. Frankfurter will bring to the court an admirable equipment, one of the finest, indeed, that has come to it in recent years…. In view of this equipment, the tags which have from time to time been attached to Mr. Frankfurter’s political and social views seem to us unimportant. He is, like Justice Brandeis, a good American, a believer in American individualism, protected in its civil liberties by the Constitution.”

The Sun declared the nomination “particularly welcome on two scores,” adding: “It was not made because of Mr. Frankfurter’s geographical qualifications. The other count is a stronger one. Since the President was bound to name a man answering his definition of liberalism, it is gratifying that the choice fell on an able and literate liberal.”

The Times, citing Prof. Frankfurter’s qualities as a fighter, an observer of current affairs, adviser of men in public life as well as a student and philosopher “profoundly learned in the law,” declared: “His appointment is a tribute to his independence as well as to the President’s ability to recognize worth and achievement.” Asserting his confirmation by the Senate “should follow as a matter of course,” the editorial concluded: “Even those whose interpretations of democratic law differ from his must recognize that he will add to the strength and dignity of a court which must, in the phrase he ascribed to Justice Holmes, ‘earn reverence through the test of truth.'”

In its news story from Washington, the Times said that immediate reaction in the Senate and among prominent persons in outside fields indicated that “this was one of the most popular appointments ever taken by the President.”

The World-Telegram, pointing out that Prof. Frankfurter had played an important role in preceding Republican administrations differing little from that which he has played in the New Deal, declared: “In our opinion President Roosevelt has never made a better appointment to any position. And he couldn’t have made a Better appointment to this position

Writing in the World Telegram, the prominent Washington commentator Raymond Clapper, whose column is nationally syndicated, predicted that Prof. Frankfurter’s nomination would be confirmed by the Senate “with the greatest of ease.” He added that “no question of Dr. Frankfurter’s fitness can be raised.”

The Post, reciting Prof. Frankfurter’s qualifications for the position and stressing the 1937 poll of lawyers by the American Institute of Public Opinion, in which the Harvard law professor drew the highest number of votes as the man most favored for the Supreme Court, as “perhaps the greatest compliment paid” him, concluded: “Mr. Justice Frankfurter will make an honored place for himself in the annals of the Supreme Court.”

Acclaim of the press echoed that voiced in Washington by Senators and other leaders in public life. Among Senators expressing approval of the appointment were both proponents and opponents of the President in his 1937 effort to increase the size of the Supreme Court. It was pointed out in those circles that Prof. Frankfurter, while not committing himself officially on the Supreme Court bill, had let it be known that he did not oppose enlargement but disputed the method of attaining it. Those commenting favorably on the appointment included Senators Norris, Prof. Frankfurter’s principal sponsor, Burke, O’Mahoney, Capper, Minton, Connally, Barkley and Speaker Bankhead.

Characteristic of comment outside Washington was the following statement issued by President William Green of the American Federation of Labor: “I regard the nomination of Mr. Felix Frankfurter as a most excellent one. He is peculiarly fitted by training and experience to serve in such an exalted position. He is a man of broad vision, possessing a fine social and economic point of view together with a judicial mind and the ability to render exact justice to all litigants and to all classes of people. I heartily commend the President upon his appointment of Mr. Felix Frankfurter.”

Founding Funders

The digitization of the JTA Archive would not have been possible without the generous support of the following donors:
  • The Gottesman Fund
  • Righteous Persons Foundation
  • Charles H. Revson Foundation
  • Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner, in honor of Norma Spungen
  • George S. Blumenthal
  • Grace and Scott Offen Charitable Fund