The Supreme Court of the United States first convened on Feb. 2, 1790, in New York City. Over the past 220 years, the composition of the Court has undergone many changes. Prior to the Supreme Court Building’s completion in 1935, the Court had met in a variety of locations and, to date, 108 men and four women have served on the court. From the most common first name of Supreme Court Justices, to relatives serving on the court, here are five facts you may not know about our highest court in the land.
- Of the 112 justices appointed to the court, 13 have been named John and 11 have been named William. Of the 17 chief justices of the United States, four have been named John, including John Jay, the first chief justice, and our current chief justice, John Roberts.
- Justice Clarence Thomas is the only justice to have served as grand marshal at the Daytona 500. He is a NASCAR fanatic and car enthusiast and enjoys traveling the country in his RV, frequently parking overnight at Wal-Mart parking lots.
- Thomas Johnson had the shortest tenure on the Court. Justice Johnson was confirmed by the Senate on Nov. 7, 1791, and was sworn in on Aug. 6, 1792. He authored the Court’s first written opinion and served on the court until Jan. 16, 1793, when he resigned, citing poor health and the difficulties of circuit riding. He served 163 days.
- There have been multiple instances of relatives serving on the court. Justices John Marshall Harlan (1877–1911) and John Marshall Harlan II (1955–71) were grandfather and grandson. John Marshall Harlan is best known for his role as the lone dissenter in the Civil Rights Cases and Plessy v. Ferguson. Justices Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus Lamar II (1888–93) and Joseph Lamar (1910–16) were cousins. Justices Stephen Johnson Field (1863–97) and David Josiah Brewer (1889–1910) were uncle and nephew and served on the court together from 1889 to 1897.
- Justice Byron (“Whizzer”) White is the only justice to be in the College Football Hall of Fame. He also played for both the Pittsburgh Pirates (now Steelers) and the Detroit Lions, and led the league in rushing yards in 1938 and 1940. He earned $15,000 a year, making him one of the first “big money” NFL players.