Stanley Forman Reed (December 31, 1884 – April 02, 1980) served on the Supreme Court of the United States from 1938 until 1957. Born in Minerva, Kentucky (a small town in Mason county), Reed was the last Supreme Court Justice to serve on the panel without the benefit of a formal law degree. He was nominated to his seat on the panel by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. He was the successor to Supreme Court Justice James Biggs and was followed by Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson.
Early Life and Heritage
Born as the only child to John and Frances (Forman) Reed, Stanley Forman Reed had some big shoes to fill. His father was a well known physician and his mother was, at one point, the Registrar General for The Daughter of the American Revolution. Along with their Protestant teachings, they also imbued Stanley Forman Reed with a powerful sense of heritage as they impressed upon him the family’s genealogical heritage that dated back to early colonial America.
By 1902, young Reed was a college student who received his Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) from Kentucky Wesleyan College. He proceeded to further his education by attending at Yale University where he received a second B.A. in 1906. He also studied law at both the University of Virginia and Columbia University but did not receive a degree from either of these institutions. After finishing his studies in the United States, Reed traveled to France in 1909, where he participated in classes at the Sorbonne and received his auditeur bénévole.
While at the University of Virginia, Reed was a member of the St.Elmo Hall fraternity, a part of Delta Phi, one of the third oldest fraternities in the United States. The active Delta Phi chapter housed at the University of Virginia is designated as Rho and was first established in 1908.
Life Prior To Becoming A Supreme Court Justice
Reed was married once in his lifetime. His bride was Winifred Elgin and they were wed in May of 1908. The union resulted in the births of two sons, John and Stanley Junior, both of whom became attorneys later in life. Reed and his wife remained married throughout their lives and last resided together in Hilaire Nursing Home in Huntington, New York, where he died on April 02, 1980. He was survived by Winifred and both of their sons.
During the early years of their marriage, following Reed’s travels to France, the family had returned to Kentucky. Settling in Maysville, Reed raised award winning Holstein cattle as a hobby while practicing law after being admitted to the bar in 1910. Two years later, in 1912, he was nominated for and elected to the Kentucky General Assembly where he served two consecutive terms of two years each.
In April of 1917, Reed answered the call of “Uncle Sam” and joined the United States Army as a commissioned lieutenant during the First World War. After the war, he returned to practicing law privately and went on to become one of the best known corporate lawyers of the time. His client list included many large corporations such as the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway and the Kentucky Burley Tobacco Growers Association.
Both Reed and his wife, Winifred, were very proud of their heritage and their positions within their respective organizations. Reed was an active member of the Sons of the American Revolution and Sons of Colonial Wars. His wife was also an active member and national officer of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
Reed served as General Counsel of the Federal Farm Board from November 07, 1929 until December of 1932. He received the nomination from President Herbert Hoover, despite being a Democrat. Hoover respected Reed’s well-known reputation as a corporate agriculture lawyer and had high hopes that Reed could assist in pulling the country out of the economic depression that followed the stock market crash of October 1929, which had led to the previous General Counsel’s resignation.
As the economic depression continued to hold the United States tightly in its grasp, President Hoover took the advice of the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Eugene Meyer, and signed the Reconstruction Finance Corporation Act into law. Fearing panic from the public and reprisals from the Republicans, Hoover insisted on keeping the actions of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC) a secret. This later proved to be a downfall as the information came to light by an act of Congress in July of 1932. The public backlash and political embarrassment led to a high turnover of top level officials within the RFC. When Roosevelt took office as President in November 1932, additional staff changes were made and Roosevelt placed Reed in position as the General Counsel of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation following the resignation of the previous General Counsel. While in this position, Reed was instrumental in creating the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) and in defending the national gold policy, including creating a clause that contractors could not redeem their public or federal contracts in gold bullion. These two efforts are credited with helping the country see its way out of the Great Depression.
Reed’s reputation from his previous appointments put him in a prime position to become the United States Solicitor General when Crawford Biggs resigned on March 14, 1935. Four days later, on the eighteenth, Roosevelt named Reed as Biggs’ successor. Reed quickly went on to take an office that was in total disarray and positioned himself as the “strongest Solicitor General since the office had been created in 1870”. Although he lost several cases in the first year of his service in the position, mainly due to the incompetence of the previous General Counsel; by 1937, he was winning the majority of his economic court cases.
Reed and The United States Supreme Court
Reed was nominated for his seat as a Supreme Court Justice on January 15, 1938. He took the seat being vacated by retiring Supreme Court Justice George Sutherland. He would go on to fill this position on the nation’s highest court for a period of 19 years until his own retirement on February 25, 1957.
During the course of his service, he was considered to be a liberal moderate with economic rulings but a conservative on social and liberty rulings. The exception to this was his stance on segregation and racism in America. In a time where these ideas were still widely accepted, Reed stood out against racism and segregation, prompting civic rights decisions that have continued to have an effect on the courts and laws to this day. Reed was influential in decisions such as Smith versus Allwright (1944), where he wrote the opinion declaring whites-only primaries unconstitutional, Morgan versus Virginia (1946), where he sided with the Interstate Commerce Commission to prohibit segregated seating on interstate buses, and Brown versus Board of Education of Topeka (1954) where segregation of the public school was declared to be unconstitutional