Henry B. Brown

Media Items
Personal Information
Wednesday, March 2, 1836
Thursday, September 4, 1913
Childhood Location 
Childhood Surroundings 
Associate Justice
Nominated By 
Commissioned on 
Monday, December 29, 1890
Sworn In 
Monday, January 5, 1891
Left Office 
Monday, May 28, 1906
Reason For Leaving 
Length of Service 
15 years, 4 months, 23 days
Henry B. Brown
The Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States (Artist: Lewis Thomas Ives)

Henry Billings Brown was born and raised in a small Massachusetts town. He led a privileged life, and was a good though undistinguished student. He avoided service in the Civil War by hiring a substitute, an accepted practice in his day.

Brown held several government positions at the federal and state levels. He was a well-regarded federal judge in Michigan when Howell Edmonds Jackson, a former senator and friend of President Harrison, urged Brown's move to the Supreme Court. Brown returned Jackson's favor by urging Harrison to "bring up" Jackson three years later.

Brown authored in excess of 450 majority opinions during his years on the Court. He gave preference to private property claims and he defended free competition. But Brown also took a broad view of the state's police powers including governmental restrictions on laissez faire.

Brown will probably be forever marked by a single opinion he authored for a majority: Plessy v. Ferguson. Brown no doubt reflected the view of his day that whites were biologically separate from blacks and that whites were superior to blacks as a group.

Clerk Law School Terms Clerked
A. B. Hall 1893, 1894, 1895

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Henry B. Brown. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 25 August 2015. <http://www.oyez.org/justices/henry_b_brown>.
Henry B. Brown, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/justices/henry_b_brown (last visited August 25, 2015).
"Henry B. Brown," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed August 25, 2015, http://www.oyez.org/justices/henry_b_brown.