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A Utahn, George Sutherland, Served on the U.S. Supreme Court
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From War to war

UTAH aND THE COLD WAR

World War I and Utah
Utah's Capitols
Herbert S. Auerbach, Renaissance Man
Utah's "Ugly Duckling" Salt Flats
Publicizing Bryce Canyon
The Last Indian Uprising
Home Industry 20th Century Style
Some 80 Utah Nurses Served in World War I
World War I Heroine Maud Fitch Lived in Eureka, Utah
Mexican Families and the Sugar Industry in Garland
The Development of Zion National Park
The Twenties
Artist John Held, Jr. Created Cultural Icons, 1920's
Media Development in Weber County
Silent Films Intrigued & Occasionally Offended
Coal Production Amid the Wars
Sheep Fueled 1920's Economy
Military Installations
Boxcars and Section Houses
Jack Dempsey Loved Fighting, Mining, and Cowboying
Radio in Utah Began in May 1922 on Station KZN
The Cigarette Ban of the 19020's Caused an Uproar
Prohibition Failed to Stop the Liquor Flow in Utah
Lawyer Ran For President on the Farmer-Labor Ticket
George Sutherland Served on the U.S. Supreme Court
Alice Stratton Feared and Made Fun of "Kaiser Bill"
Klansmen at a Funeral and a Terrible Lynching
President Harding's 1923 Visit to Utah
Growing Crops For the Cannery
Dinosaur National Monument
The Fathers of Capitol Reef National Park
Ogden's the Bigelow-Preserves a Historic Area
Philo T. Farnsworth's Invention
The Beginnings of Commerical Aviation
The White Book Road Guide
The Great Depression
Depression Memories
"Even Grasshoppers Were Starving" During Drought
New Deal Agencies Built 233 Buildings in Utah
"Alphabet" Agencies in Utah County
The Civilian Conservation Corps Was a Boon to Utah
The Civilian Conservation Corps
Marriner S. Eccles Helped Design FDR's New Deal
Reed Smoot and the Smoot-Hawley Tariff, 1930
Reed Smoot & America's Natural Resources, 1903-33
Children in the 1930's Hoped to Become Nurses & Pilots
Arches National Monument
A Labor Inspector During the Great Depression
Clean Clothes Blowing in the Breeze
Utah's Rosies in the War
Garfield County Airport Has Unusual Hangar
Marie Ogden Led Spiritual Group in San Juan County
Uinta Basin Group Trekked to the 1933 World's Fair
Helen Hofmann Bertagnole-"Utah's Queen of Swing"
World War II in Utah
How Trains Helped Win a War
The War Effort at Home
Topaz Relocation Center
Topaz: Japanese American Interned in UT During WWII
Japanese Agricultural Colony at Keetley
Utahn Survives the Attack at Pearl Harbor
The USS Salt Lake City Made History
Utah Naval Officer Died a Hero's Death at Pearl Harbor
Rhymes Filled Children's Autograph Books
Utah's Rosies Upshot
Women Workers and Housing Issues
World War II Claimed the Lives of Four Utah Brothers

W. Paul Reeve
History Blazer, January 1995

On September 5, 1922, the United States Supreme Court's only Utahn to date was appointed and confirmed without discussion. George Sutherland was born of British parents in Buckinghamshire, England, on March 25, 1862. That same year, his father joined the Mormon church, and soon the family immigrated to Utah Territory, settling in Springville. Before long, however, the elder Sutherland renounced his new faith, and young George was raised as a non-Mormon. The family left Utah for several years but eventually returned to take up permanent residence.

The need to earn his own support forced George from school at age twelve. He found work as a clerk in a clothing store in Salt Lake City. A few odd jobs later, in 1879, he was able to return to the classroom. He enrolled in the newly established Brigham Young Academy in Provo. There he came under the influence of Karl G. Maeser, the academy's president, whom Sutherland always acknowledged as having had a decisive effect on his life.

Sutherland's experience at the academy was followed by a brief period of intensive study at the University of Michigan Law School. In March 1883 he was licensed to practice law in Michigan, but a Provo classmate, Rosamond Lee, attracted him back to Utah and they were soon married. Sutherland then went into partnership with his father, opening Sutherland and Son law practice in Provo. As a young attorney George defended many persons indicted under federal anti-polygamy laws and earned the respect of his Mormon neighbors.

Politically, however, Sutherland joined Utah's Liberal party and campaigned for the end of polygamy. He ran as the Liberal candidate for mayor of Provo in 1890 but was soundly defeated. Following Wilford Woodruff's 1890 Manifesto ending the Mormon church's open support of polygamy, Sutherland felt that the Liberal party had lost its usefulness. He promptly declared himself a Republican and was influential in organizing the GOP in Utah. His political career blossomed. In 1900 he was elected to a term as Utah's congressman, and in 1905 he returned to Washington as a U.S. senator. He won reelection to the Senate in 1911.

In 1917 William H. King defeated Sutherland in his bid for a third-term in the Senate, but Sutherland remained in Washington, D.C., where he opened a law office. Elected president of the American Bar Association in the fall of 1916, he led the ABA's support for the war effort and also continued his forthright defense of individual rights.

His service in Washington brought him into contact with influential politicians, including Warren G. Harding who, upon becoming president, chose Sutherland to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court. During Sutherland's sixteen years as a justice he remained faithful to his beliefs in individual rights and freedom from government control. Particularly challenging to those beliefs was Franklin D. Roosevelt's barrage of New Deal legislation. Sutherland became one of the "nine old men of the court" who complicated the course of the New Deal and led to Roosevelt's failed court-packing scheme.

Sutherland announced his retirement in 1938 and died four years later on July 18, 1942. One year prior to his death, his alma mater, Brigham Young University, awarded him an honorary degree. At the ceremony Sutherland offered these words of wisdom that his life personified: "Character to be good must be . . . so firmly fixed in the conscience, and indeed in the body itself, as to insure unhesitating rejection of an impulse to do wrong."

For additional information see Joel Francis Paschal, Mr. Justice Sutherland: A Man against the State (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1951).

 

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