Hugo Black: Opinion in Gideon v. Wainwright

(1963)

About the Author

Hugo Black was one of the most vivid and controversial personalities ever to occupy a seat on the Supreme Court bench. A onetime Ku Klux Klan member, he would seem an unlikely defender of the First Amendment, and yet Black became the very embodiment of a black-letter, literalist jurist, with his commitment to the rights established in the first eight amendments to the Constitution making him into one of the Court's intellectual leaders. He carried a dog-eared copy of the Constitution around in his right coat pocket and referred to it often. “That Constitution is my legal bible,” he would declare. “I cherish every word of it from the first to the last” (Schwartz, p. 239). No part of the Constitution was more sacred to Black than the First Amendment, which, as he frequently—and pointedly—noted, begins with the words “Congress shall make no law.” For Black the framers of the Constitution meant what they wrote, and he demanded proof that laws being scrutinized...

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Hugo Black (Library of Congress)

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