The Warren County Historical Society, in collaboration with the Robert H. Jackson Center in Jamestown, N.Y., will honor and celebrate the 120th birthday of Warren County native and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson.
A special program dedicated to his memory will be held in the main courtroom of the Warren County Court House at 7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 13. The community is invited to help celebrate the life of this very important man who was born into the small, close-knit farming community of Spring Creek Township. Through education, hard work and perseverance Jackson rose to become a U.S. Supreme Court Justice who eventually became the U.S. Chief Prosecutor at the Nuremburg Trials of the Nazi war leaders.
Robert Houghwout Jackson was born Feb. 13, 1892, on his uncle's farm on the banks of the Brokenstraw Creek, the first-born son of farmers William and Angelina Houghwout Jackson. But Bob was destined for a different life than the farming of his ancestors. His father moved the family to Frewsburg, NY, to renovate and open Hotel Jackson as well as a next door livery. It was while living in Frewsburg that Bob began his education in which he earned excellent grades. He was an avid reader as were his family members and he read most of the 500 books in the Frewsburg library. He loved to speak in public and joined a literary society and the debate team at Frewsburg High School. After graduating in 1909 in a class of four he decided to study an extra year at the high school in Jamestown.
Jackson’s childhood home in Spring Creek
Following the next year of schooling, he chose to practice law. He accepted an offer of an apprenticeship from an attorney cousin. In the early days of the 20th century after two years of law school or two years as law apprentice, an individual could take the New York State Bar Exam to become a lawyer without ever having to attend college. Jackson completed one year of schooling at Albany Law School and returned to one more year as an apprentice in Jamestown. By 1912 Jackson was handling many cases and in 1913 passed the bar exam. During the next several years he became a well known and respected attorney in Jamestown.
Jackson met New York State Senator Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1911 through Democratic Party politics and was elected to the party's state committee in 1913. But Jackson disliked political life and planned to stay out of the struggle, although he continued to support Democratic candidates. He built up his law practice representing individuals, small businessmen, and farmers. When the Great Depression hit in 1929, Jackson's law office was doing well and he and his family remained successful.
After Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected to his first term of the Presidency with his New Deal programs, the Democratic party administration contacted Robert H. Jackson to offer him several government positions. At first he was uninterested but when they offered a position trying cases against people who owed taxes to the government, he accepted and moved his family to Washington D.C. The position at the Bureau of Revenue was time consuming and Jackson was in charge of 300 lawyers. After two years, Jackson earned a promotion to assistant attorney general but by the fall of 1937, he was planning to return to quieter life in Jamestown. President Roosevelt had other plans for Jackson and encouraged him to wait a little longer. In March of 1938 the President made good on his recommendation and appointed Jackson to the position of solicitor general, an official position in charge of trying the government's side of cases before the Supreme Court. Jackson was very pleased and was later quoted stating " the most enjoyable period of my whole official life."
Jackson was again promoted in 1939, this time as attorney general. Finally in 1941 Jackson was nominated and became a justice of the United States Supreme Court. During his time in the Supreme Court, he served as the U.S. Chief Prosecutor of the Nazi War Criminals' Tribunal in Nuremburg, Germany, a position that won him much notoriety. Up until his death from a heart attack in 1954, Jackson strove to protect American's Constitutional Rights.
Liberty Under Law: The Life and Legacy of Robert H. Jackson is a documentary compiled by co-producers Lisa and Rich Gensheimer of Main Street Media over the last several years. She and her husband are independent documentarians who produce stories from the past that have national or international significance to life today. On the occasion of Justice Jackson's 120th birthday, segments of this soon-to-be- released documentary will be viewed and feedback requested from the attendees to explore how Jackson's early life in rural Pennsylvania and southwestern New York influenced his character and, ultimately, his contributions to the world.
This program is free and open to the public. Everyone is invited to honor the life and work of a astonishing local man. For more information, call the Warren County Historical Society at 723-1795 or the Robert H. Jackson Center at (716) 483-6646.