John M. Harlan

Media Items
Personal Information
Saturday, June 1, 1833
Saturday, October 14, 1911
Childhood Location 
Childhood Surroundings 
Associate Justice
Nominated By 
Commissioned on 
Thursday, November 29, 1877
Sworn In 
Wednesday, December 19, 1877
Left Office 
Saturday, October 14, 1911
Reason For Leaving 
Length of Service 
33 years, 9 months, 26 days
John M. Harlan
The Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States (Artist: Pierre Troubetzkoy)

John Marshall Harlan was born to a civic-minded family whose members played active roles in public life. Harlan studied law at Transylvania University ("The Harvard of the West") and finished his legal education in his father's law office.

Harlan was a slaveholder and a member of the southern aristocracy, but he remained loyal to the Union over the Confederacy. Later, as head of the Kentucky delegation to the 1876 Republican national convention, Harlan helped the drive to nominate Ohio governor Rutherford B. Hayes. A year later, President Hayes nominated Harlan to the Supreme Court.

Harlan sat longer than most justices. In his long tenure, he earned the title of "great dissenter." Always within spitting distance of a spittoon, Harlan was perhaps the last of the tobacco-chewing justices.

Clerk Law School Terms Clerked
John E. Hoover 1907, 1909, 1910
William R. Harr 1896
Henry M. Clapp 1889
Blewitt H. Lee 1889
Edgar R. Rombauer 1889

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John M. Harlan. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 25 August 2015. <>.
John M. Harlan, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, (last visited August 25, 2015).
"John M. Harlan," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed August 25, 2015,