Harold Burton was born and raised in a Boston suburb. He attended Bowdoin College and completed his law degree at Harvard. He practiced law in Ohio and later served as the mayor of Cleveland.
Burton holds the unusual distinction of being the only Republican appointed to the Supreme Court from 1933 to 1953, a period of virtually complete Democratic control. He proved to be the most liberal of Truman's four appointments. He possessed extraordinary personal charm. As one scholar wrote, "probably no member of the...Court enjoyed greater affection from his colleagues on the bench...." But his liberal views did not always protect individual rights, as his opinion for the Court in the Bute case makes plain.