Chief Justice Earl Warren
Education and Early Career
Born to a Norwegian-Swedish immigrant couple on March 19, 1891, Earl Warren spent
the majority of his childhood in Bakersfield, California. Warren’s father was a
repairman for the railroad, and was murdered by an unknown robber before Warren
graduated high school. Warren went on to study at UC Berkeley and received his Bachelors
of Arts in Legal Studies. In 1914, he was admitted to the California bar. In 1917,
he joined the US Army to fight in World War I. In 1925, he married Nina Elisabeth
Palmquist Meyers, a Swedish widow, and together they had six children.
Attorney General of California
In 1938, Warren was elected Attorney General of California, after running without
major opposition. He ran an anti-crime campaign and tried to eliminate gambling
ships in southern California. During this time, he was also largely responsible
for the removal of Japanese to internment camps, claiming that the Japanese were
the “Achilles heel” of the US’s defense effort during World War II.
Governor of California
Running on the Republican ticket in 1942, Warren was elected Governor of California.
He was re-elected in 1946 and again in 1950, which made him the first and only governor
of California to serve three consecutive terms. As a progressive governor, Warren
was extremely concerned with planning and running the state as efficiently as possible.
He began postwar economic planning before the end of WWII. Warren ran for Vice President
of the US with Thomas Dewey in 1948; however, the pair lost to Democratic candidate
Harry Truman and Vice Presidential running mate Alben Barkley. That was the only
election Warren ever lost.
Election to the Supreme Court
Warren was the “favorite son” candidate of California in the 1952 Republican nomination
for Presidential candidate. However, when Eisenhower and Nixon were elected, everyone
could see that there were unresolved tensions between Nixon and Warren. To keep
the peace, Eisenhower offered Warren the job of solicitor general, with a promise
of an eventual Supreme Court seat. Warren accepted; however, before this was made
public, Chief Justice Fred Vinson died suddenly, and Eisenhower picked Warren to
replace Vinson as Chief Justice of the US. Eisenhower was impressed by Warren’s
commitment to maintaining the integrity of the US political system through the courts,
and felt that he would be impartial to political biases, and instead uphold justice.
The Warren Court
Warren’s presiding over the Supreme Court eventually came to be known as the Warren
Court. Initially, many Supreme Court justices, who had been appointed by FDR and were New Deal fanatics,
split the vote evenly, which tied up many popular cases. However, when Arthur Goldberg
was appointed to the court in 1962, Warren finally had the fifth vote he needed
in order to maintain the liberal majority. He went on to make such decisions as
Brown v. Board of Education (1954), which banned segregation in public schools.
He also worked to get the still-used Miranda rights in place, which meant that criminals
being arrested were read their rights before being incarcerated. Under Warren’s
leadership, the Supreme Court also declared mandatory prayer in public schools unconstitutional.
Additionally, an individual’s right to privacy was upheld in Warren’s Court.