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John Q. Barrett: Warren, Jackson Honed 'Brown' Decision in Hospital

In the Media
Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Warren, Jackson Honed 'Brown' Decision in Hospital
By John Q. Barrett
The National Law Journal

On May 8, 1954, Justice Robert Jackson was a hospital patient—he was spending his 40th day in Doctors Hospital in downtown Washington. Jackson was recuperating from the serious heart attack he had suffered on March 30. He was “out of the woods” but still under close supervision by doctors and nurses. He was building up his strength in preparation for his release in coming weeks.

On that morning (it was a Saturday), Chief Justice Earl Warren arrived at the hospital to visit Jackson. His law clerk, E. Barrett Prettyman Jr., visiting Jackson at the time, excused himself and went down the hall.

The chief justice delivered for Jackson’s review, and they discussed, three documents that Warren (and his law clerk Earl Pollock) had drafted: a cover memorandum regarding the school segregation cases that the Supreme Court was in the process of deciding; a memorandum (in effect a draft opinion) regarding four consolidated cases, captioned together as Brown v. Board of Education, on the constitutionality of racial segregation in state school systems; and a memorandum on a federal case, Bolling v. Sharpe, concerning racial segregation in District of Columbia schools.