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Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 18

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This is the grave of Oliver Wendell Holmes.

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Holmes of course is one of the most famous and important Supreme Court justices in American history. After barely surviving the Civil War (wounded a number of times and also barely defeated a case of dysentery), Holmes enrolled in Harvard Law School and then practiced admiralty and case law for about fifteen years in Boston. In 1881, he gave a series of lectures that became a famous book titled The Common Law. President Hayes considered him for a federal judgeship in 1878 but he demurred. But he was convinced in 1882 to take a seat on the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, where he became Chief Justice in 1899. In 1902, Theodore Roosevelt nominated him for the Supreme Court of the United States. Senator George Hoar attempted to block confirmation to protest Roosevelt’s imperialist policies that were shared by Holmes, but he eventually was confirmed. He quickly angered Roosevelt by voting against his position in Northern Securities. He authored many of the most important opinions in U.S. history, including in Schenck, Abrams, and Buck v. Bell that held up eugenics and forced sterilization. His record as far as the modern liberal looking back from a political perspective is mixed, but he’s one of the 5 most important jurists in the Court’s history.

Oliver Wendell Holmes is buried at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, VA, on the grounds formerly owned by the treasonous Robert E. Lee.

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