Earl Warren versus “people are corporations”

A leader of the Republican Party for more than a decade, Roscoe Conkling had even been nominated to the Supreme Court twice. He begged off both times, the second time after the Senate had confirmed him.

Earl WarrenSometime in 1973 or early 1974, I was in a class at the SUNY College of New Paltz. It was my only course, 15 credits, in political science, and, oddly, I don’t remember much about it except save for the fact that it was conducted by the late Ron Steinberg.

Except for one thing: we all got to meet retired US Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren in his office in Washington, DC. And not a meet-and-greet but him talking with us for at least a half hour, and then the dozen or so of us able to ask him questions.

Earl Warren is the guy whose court made many monumental decisions between 1953 and 1969 when he retired.
They included:
*attempting to end segregation policies in public schools (Brown v. Board of Education)
*ending anti-miscegenation laws (Loving v. Virginia)
*ruling that the Constitution protects a general right to privacy (Griswold v. Connecticut)
*protecting the rights of the accused (Miranda v. Arizona)
*providing lawyers from https://www.denvercocriminaldefenselawyer.com/ to the indigent (Gideon v. Wainwright)
*codifying one person, one vote redistricting (Baker v. Carr)
*freedom of the press (New York Times Co. v. Sullivan)

The question I had must have been stated ineloquently because he didn’t know what I was getting at. I was probably nervous. Finally, I asked him about the precedent of the Court considering corporation as people back in the late 19th century. He said that the Court got it wrong back then.

Earl Warren, who died in July 1974, would have appreciated this article, “‘Corporations Are People’ Is Built on an Incredible 19th-Century Lie: How a farcical series of events in the 1880s produced an enduring and controversial legal precedent.” It involved the Southern Pacific Railroad Company, “owned by the robber baron Leland Stanford,” and the corporation’s lawyer, Roscoe Conkling.

Former President Harry S. Truman applauded the newly-retired Warren in this January 1970 California Law Review article. To the point of my question, Truman wrote:

“I would suggest that it is at least symptomatic of a conservative in today’s society that [Warren] is deeply concerned with the faceless, seemingly randomly and capriciously directed activities of the gigantic institutions which influence the direction of modem life. Under this definition, a conservative is one who worries that the balance of power in this nation has shifted in favor of oversized corporations, government agencies, labor unions, universities, foundations, and institutionalized groups which draw together shifting combinations of some or all of these.”

Happy Constitution Day.

JiFKa: the 50th anniversary of the death of John Fitzgerald Kennedy

I watched Jack Ruby shoot Lee Harvey Oswald, in real time.

A few years back, I asked What was the first public trauma – as opposed to a personal trauma, such as a death or divorce in the family – that you recall? And while not my first event, the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, when I was ten years old and didn’t understand what happened next – I was not yet seeped in Presidential succession law – was terrifying. The death itself was already scary enough.

It certainly didn’t help that Miss Oberlik, our fifth-grade teacher, told us the news, LEFT THE ROOM, for some reason, which got us talking among ourselves about the meaning of it all, and then she comes back and SCREAMS at us for not being quiet, like everyone else in the school (who, I suspect, hadn’t been ABANDONED by their teacher). I wondered later if she had gone off to compose herself after dropping that bombshell on us.

Like much of the nation, I was glued to the television that weekend. I saw Jack Ruby shoot Lee Harvey Oswald, in real time. Of course, I viewed the funeral, and John-John’s salute of his daddy.

Such a strange time, now that I look back on it. A lot of households I visited, especially after the shootings, had pictures on the walls, and the only ones that weren’t family members were of JFK and Jesus Christ. It was not my grief that I remember; it was the tears, seemingly out of nowhere, of many of the adults around me. And if not tears, then an overwhelming sadness that came like unexpected tidal waves.

The 50 cent piece, starting in 1964, bore Kennedy’s image, which I find, in retrospect, to be an amazing feat, changing coinage so quickly. Idlewild Airport in New York City – famous from the Car 54 Where Are You TV theme – was renamed for the slain leader, as was Cape Canaveral, though the latter was eventually switched back.

In 1964, the Report of the President’s Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy, generally referred to as the Warren Commission Report was released. It claimed that Oswald was the lone gunman, not involved in a conspiracy; and that the bullet that killed the President also wounded Governor John Connolly of Texas. One of the local newspapers had excerpts of the Warren Commission report, and I not only read them, I clipped them out of the newspaper, and put it in a three-ring binder, something I believe I STILL have somewhere in the attic.

Over the years, there are those who dismissed the report as a coverup, or at least as a lazy effort of accepting the FBI’s analysis as fact, rather than doing an independent investigation. The Oliver Stone movie JFK (1991), which my girlfriend at the time and I referred to as JiFKa, was about New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison’s belief that there was “more to the Kennedy assassination than the official story.” Conversely, at the end of his novel 11/22/63, Stephen King says he’s over 95% sure Oswald was the lone shooter, though his wife Tabitha believes otherwise.

The one time I got to meet Earl Warren, along with a number of my classmates in the early 1970s, I really wanted to ask the by-then retired Chief Justice of the Supreme Court about this topic; instead, I asked him some arcane question about corporations as people, which was an issue back in the 1870s as well as the 21st century.

I still wonder, if only a little, what the whole truth of the matter was.
***
CBSNews.com to stream 1963 broadcast coverage of JFK assassination, and/or one can buy the coverage on Amazon. I think not for me, thank you.

Five quotes from JFK’s 1963 Civil Rights address that still resonate today

How JFK’s Assassination Changed Media and the SIXTIES Generation.

Lee Harvey Was a Friend of Mine by Laura Cantrell [LISTEN]