Felix Frankfurter was born in Vienna, Austria. He emigrated with his parents in 1894 and grew up amidst teeming tenements on New York's lower east side. He attended City College and established an impressive record at Harvard Law School. He had a brief tour in private legal practice but soon entered into government service, beginning with the U.S. Attorney's office in Manhattan. Frankfurter followed the incumbent U.S. Attorney, Henry Stimson, back into private practice and then back to government, this time as Stimpson held the position of Secretary of War under President Taft.
Frankfurter left government service to accept a position on the faculty of Harvard Law School where he remained, more or less, until his appointment to the Supreme Court in 1938. Frankfurter earned a reputation as an expert in constitutional law and federal jurisdiction. But he was no academic recluse. He argued cases for the National Consumers League, maintained an active interest in Zionist causes, and helped to found The New Republic. Frankfurter was also a highly visible defender of Sacco and Vanzetti, who were anarchists accused of bank robbery and murder in Braintree, Massachusetts.
Frankfurter was a confidant of Justices Louis Brandeis and Oliver Wendell Holmes. Frankfurter would regularly scout out law clerks for these justices from among his minions at Harvard Law School. Frankfurter was also an adviser to Franklin D. Roosevelt and sent many of his students to work in the New Deal.
Frankfurter was a prolific writer on and off the Court. He wrote often even when he was not the Court's main voice. He was an epistolarian in an age where letter-writing was on the wane. He had a brisk and energetic style to all that he did. To this day, his opinions stand out in relation to his colleagues' colorless prose.
|Clerk||Law School||Terms Clerked|
|Jerome A. Cohen||Yale (1955)||1956|
|John D. French||Harvard (1960)||1960|
|Joseph L. Rauh, Jr.||Harvard (1935)|
|Louis Henkin||Harvard (1940)||1946|
|Paul Bender||Harvard (1957)||1959|
|Philip Elman||Harvard (1939)||1941, 1942|
|Philip Kurland||Harvard (1944)||1945|
|Philip L. Graham||Harvard (1939)||1940|
|Richard N. Goodwin||Harvard (1958)||1958|
|Stanley M. Silverberg||1943|
|Vincent L. McKusick||Harvard (1950)||1951|
|William Thaddeus Coleman||Harvard (1946)||1948|