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Henry Billings Brown


  • He received basic legal training at Yale and at Harvard, although he did not earn a law degree.


  • Brown hired a substitute to take his place in the Union Army during the Civil War, and served as United States Attorney.

    In 1891, he paid $25,000 for land at 1720 16th Street, NW, in Washington, D.C., to the Riggs family, hired architect William Henry Miller, and built a five-story, 18-room mansion for $40,000.

    Justice Brown retired on 28 May 1906. On his retirement, the Bar of the Supreme Court resident in the District of Columbia gave him a public dinner at which were present President Theodore Roosevelt and Vice-President Charles Fairbanks, many judges of the Supreme Court, cabinet officers and others of public distinction. President Roosevelt made a complimentary speech, to which Justice Brown responded in a carefully prepared and able address.

Major achievements

  • He edited a collection of rulings and orders in important admiralty cases from inland waters, which is still used as a reference in Black's Law Dictionary.

    He also compiled a case book on admiralty law for his lectures at Georgetown University.

    Brown is well-known for the decision in Plessy v. Ferguson, in which he wrote the majority opinion - upholding the principle and legitimacy of "separate but equal" facilities for American blacks and whites.


  • Brown's Admiralty Reports


Legal historian Joel Goldfarb described Brown as a Supreme Court Justice who "usually took the center position. He was neither a liberal nor a reactionary, neither an extreme nationalist nor a states' rights advocate, neither a representative of the plutocracy nor an exponent of progressivism. Brown did everything he could to prevent splits in the Court which he regarded as dangerous to its influence and dangerous to political stability . . .

Party affiliation: Republican Party



Brown was a social Darwinist, and his views of women and minorities were at best, crabbed and at worst, racist.


a reflexive social elitist



Politicians: he was a loyal Republican and a strong supporter of the Union and Abraham Lincoln


  • father: Billings
  • mother: Mary Amy
  • Wife: Caroline
  • Wife: Josephine E.
Henry Billings Brown
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Born March 2, 1836
Died September 4, 1913
(aged 77)
  • January 6, 1860 - June 15, 1875
    Lecturer in law, University of Michigan
  • February 15, 1868 - May 28, 1871
    Professor of medical jurisprudence, Detroit Medical College
  • March 17, 1875 - December 30, 1890
    President Ulysses Grant, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan
  • December 29, 1890 - May 28, 1906
    associate justice, the Supreme Court of the United States



Inga Dabralinskaya last changed 15/11/2011 view changes
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  • Relatives
    • Mary A. Tyler
    • Mary Amy Tyler
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