Joseph Rucker Lamar
|Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States|
December 17, 1910 – January 2, 1916
|Nominated by||William Taft|
|Preceded by||William Moody|
|Succeeded by||Louis Brandeis|
|Born||October 14, 1857|
Ruckersville, Georgia, U.S.
|Died||January 2, 1916 (aged 58)|
Washington, D.C., U.S.
|Education||University of Georgia|
Bethany College, West Virginia (BA)
Washington and Lee University
Joseph Rucker Lamar (October 14, 1857 – January 2, 1916) was an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court appointed by President William Howard Taft. A cousin of former associate justice Lucius Lamar, he served from 1910 until his death in 1916.
Born in Ruckersville, Elbert County, Georgia, Lamar was the son of a minister and attended the Academy of Richmond County in Augusta, Georgia and the Martin Institute in Jefferson, Georgia. Lamar descended from William Speer Sr. (1745–1830) a Presbyterian immigrant from Ireland. During his time in Augusta, he lived next door to and was the "closest friend"  of future president Woodrow Wilson, whose father was the local Presbyterian minister. They both also attended Joseph T. Derry's school for boys in a local warehouse, a school whose other students would also become a future Congressman, major newspaper owner/ambassador and the dean of Columbia Law School. After Lamar graduated from the Penn Lucy School near Baltimore, Maryland, he attended the University of Georgia where he was a member of the Phi Kappa Literary Society. After his family moved he completed his degree at Bethany College in 1877, where he was a member of Beta Theta Pi. After attending law school at Washington and Lee University School of Law, he left and completed his legal education by reading law with a prominent Augusta attorney, then returned to Bethany College to teach Latin for a year, afterward practicing law in Augusta.
From 1886 to 1889, he served in the Georgia House of Representatives, and then was appointed by the Supreme Court of Georgia in 1893 as a member of the Commission to Recodify the Laws of Georgia, which prepared a code of laws for the state. Two years later, that code was adopted by the state General Assembly.
On January 1, 1901, Lamar was appointed to fill an unexpired term in the Supreme Court of Georgia, then was re-elected in 1903. He wrote more than 200 opinions before resigning in 1905 to again practice law, defending railroads and many other large corporations.
On December 12, 1910, Lamar was nominated by President William Howard Taft to a seat on the Supreme Court of the United States vacated by William H. Moody. Lamar was confirmed by the United States Senate on December 15, 1910, and received commission on December 17, 1910. At the time of his appointment to the Supreme Court, Lamar was only one of three justices ever nominated by a President of the opposite party. That stellar reputation was one reason Lamar, together with Frederick W. Lehmann, was selected in 1914 to represent the United States at the ABC Powers Conference convened to avert a war over the Veracruz Incident.
At a reception after Woodrow Wilson's inauguration in 1913, the two friends from youth were able to meet again and swapped stories of their Georgia youth. They remained in contact while they were in Washington. In 1915, Lamar wrote two short individual opinions in the famed Leo Frank case. He declined to grant a petition for habeas corpus brought by Frank to challenge the fairness of his trial, but subsequently granted a writ of error allowing Frank to bring his claims before the court. The full Court went on to reject Frank's claim in Frank v. Mangum; Lamar voted with the majority but did not write a separate opinion.
In the fall of 1915, Lamar suffered a paralytic stroke. Legislation was proposed to allow Lamar to retire with full pay, but his death just months later made the issue a moot point.
He died in Washington, D.C. on January 2, 1916.
Legacy and honors
Lamar's professional papers, including correspondence concerning his years as a Justice, are archived at the University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia, and available for research. The Joseph Rucker Lamar Boyhood Home in Augusta, Georgia is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
- "Federal Judicial Center: Joseph Rucker Lamar". December 12, 2009. Archived from the original on May 13, 2009. Retrieved December 12, 2009.
- "William Speer, Sr (1745-1830) - Find a Grave Memorial". Find a Grave. Retrieved December 11, 2019.
- Berg, A. Scott (2013). Wilson. New York, NY: G.P. Putnam's Sons. p. 38. ISBN 978-0-399-15921-3.
- "Joseph Rucker Lamar (1857-1916)". August 5, 2013. Retrieved February 2, 2017.
- Thomas Lamar Coughlin, "Those Southern Lamars" ISBN 0-7388-2410-0
- "Supreme Court Justice Lamar Passes Away". Lancaster New Era. January 3, 1916. p. 11. Retrieved December 26, 2020 – via Newspapers.com.
- Williams, Greg H. (July 25, 2014). The Liberty Ships of World War II: A Record of the 2,710 Vessels and Their Builders, Operators and Namesakes, with a History of the Jeremiah O'Brien. McFarland. ISBN 978-1476617541. Retrieved December 9, 2017.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Joseph Rucker Lamar.|
- Joseph Rucker Lamar at Find a Grave
- Augusta, Georgia, a National Park Service Discover Our Shared Heritage Travel Itinerary
- Joseph Rucker and Clarinda Pendleton Lamar Papers from the Digital Library of Georgia
| Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States