Harlan Fiske Stone (1872-1946)

B Born 1872 to Ann Sophia Butler and Frederick Lauson Stone
M 1899 to Agnes Harvey
D 1946
C  Lauson Harvey Stone and Marshall Harvey Stone

President Calvin Coolidge with his new Attorney General, Harlan Fiske Stone, just after Mr. Stone took the oath of office at the Department of Justice in Washington, 1924.
Stone Family Papers, Jones Library.

From the Stone Family Papers:

Harlan Fiske Stone , the son of Anne Butler and Frederick L. Stone, was born on October 11, 1872, in Chesterfield, N.H. He attended Massachusetts Agricultural College from 1888 to 1890 when he was expelled for pushing Charles Swan Walker, the college chaplain. He then entered Amherst College and received his degree in 1894. After teaching science in high school for one year, Stone entered Columbia Law School, where he received his degree in 1899. He opened a private practice in law and also taught at Columbia Law School for several years. He was named dean of the school in 1906 and remained there, on and off, until 1924. During this period he resigned and was reinstated several times as a result of disputes with Nicholas Murray Butler, the President of Columbia University. In 1924, President Calvin Coolidge appointed Stone Attorney General of the United States. This was a period of the Teapot Dome scandal, and President Coolidge needed someone with a national reputation for integrity to clean house in the Department of Justice. One of Stone's most significant and enduring acts was his naming of J. Edgar Hoover as the head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

In 1925, Stone was named Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. It was here that he helped mold the court during the years of the New Deal legislation and the "court-packing" attempts of President F. D. Roosevelt. Surprisingly, it was Roosevelt in 1941 who named the conservative Stone to the post of Chief Justice. Stone remained in this position until his death on April 22, 1946. In a recent survey of deans of American law schools, Justice Stone was ranked as one of the most important and influential jurists in American history. Harlan Fiske Stone was married to the former Agnes Harvey.

File:Harlan fiske stone birthplace 20041120.jpg

Birthplace of Harlan F. Stone in Chesterfield, New Hampshire

Cousin Nellie saves the day
Well, this is a Butler genealogy web site, so the Harlan Stone page has to have a Butler angle!  In Pillar of the Law by Alphaeus Thomas Mason, the chief justice credits his cousin Helen May Butler ("Nellie") for convincing his dad to let him go back to college after he was summarily dismissed from Massachusetts Agricultural College (M. A. C. - Now University of Massachusetts)

It seems that he was involved in a major altercation with several other young men during which he was grabbed from behind.  Thinking it was one of the other students, he turned and vigorously shook the person who turned out to be the college chaplain.  Since this wasn't the first time he had been in trouble at the school and this incident was a serious one and it involved the college chaplain, the future justice was expelled from M. A. C. with absolutely no chance of returning.  He begged, he cajoled, but he was not allowed to return to the school.  His father was furious.  You can just imagine!  After all, the parents had left Chesterfield for the express purpose of furthering the educations of of their children.  And now this!

Frederick Stone told Harlan that since he was not going to college that his future was to be a farmer.  He handed him a pitchfork and put him to work shoveling manure. 

"Your school days are over!  You're through!  From now on it is the farm for you, " he said to his son.

Fred Stone, a "father of the old school", was adamant.  Apparently at this point, realizing he could not reason with his father, Harlan appealed to his cousin Helen May Butler ("Nellie), a few years older and perhaps just a little wiser and better able to talk to his father.  We don't know how but Helen May was at the Stone's farmhouse for 3 weeks working on Fred Stone.  Perhaps he got tired of her relentless efforts (from what I know about Helen May she was nothing if not tireless and talkative) and may have submitted to her will just to send her on her way.  At the end of the three weeks Fred Stone did relent and allow his son to apply for admission at Amherst College.

According to Mason, Stone later wrote Helen May and told her

"Nellie, always remember, If I ever make anything of myself, I owe it all to you, because had you not spoken to Dad I'd probably still be behind the plow!"

Frederick Stone had to make a trip down to Amherst to meet with the president of the University to discuss Harlan's admission.  After all, they were not used to admitting students in bad standing from other universities.  The president and the father came to an understanding and when Fred got home and greeted his son in the barn with the news, Harlan threw the pitchfork he was holding across the barn in elation.


From Butler Papers

After listing several accomplished jurists from New Hampshire .....

To this distinguished group of native sons, New Hampshire added. With honor and a deep sense of pride the name of Harlan Fiske Stone, 12th Chief Justice of the United States and a great American.

Historians tell us that the passing of time is sometimes necessary to gain the perspective with which properly to judge a man, but the passing of time is not (necessary to judge the character and contribution to living of a man like Harlan Fiske Stone. The deep sense of duty that prompted him to accept public office despite the lure of great wealth that awaited him in private practice, and his Intellectual integrity, that made it impossible ever to classify him accurately with a mere label, represent virtues that need no passing years to appreciate fully. In times as troubled as these when the need for men of stature has never been greater, it is reassuring to gather here and honor a man who had that quality. But then it is always reassuring to tell the story of a man who rose from humble circumstances to a position of great power and importance and yet never lost the common touch. Such a story is typically American. It is the story of Harlan Stone’s life.

His mother, Ann Sophia Butler, taught school in Chesterfield before she married, and from her we may assume her son gained something of that love for teaching which he never lost.  His father, Frederick Lauson Stone, was a farmer, and it was on a farm that Harlan spent his boyhood. A few years after his birth the family moved down this valley 4-0 miles or so to Amherst, Massachusetts where the future Chief Justice began his public school training.

At one time it seemed that Harlan Stone might become a farmer and for a while he attended agricultural school. But later he transferred to Amherst College where his scholastic record soon gave indication of his future success in the law. He managed “THE A. STUD" and was a member of Phi Beta Kappa. At Amherst, Stone was president of his class and played right guard on one of his alma mater's greatest football teams, a team that won the distinction so dear to Amherst men of defeating their rival, Williams, by the score of 6o to 0.

Nor that all, for his classmates voted. him as the member of their class who would. become most famous. All this was in addition to his work as salesman for the new fangled writing machines - Typewriters - the selling of insurance and tutoring of other students, all to help to defray the cost of a college education.

The record also reveals, that he was once chairman of the Republican Club at Amherst and it was there, too, that he first met Calvin Coolidge who was a class behind him. One might think that with the academic success he won and the numerous additional activities I have mentioned, Harlan Stone would have been too busy for other interests. As a matter of fact, he was also chairman of a student committee which drew up a report credited to have led to the ousting of a college president who was somewhat arbitrary in dealing with the acuity and students. This feat led one commentator to conclude that, “The great thing that Stone learned at Amherst was not to abandon hell—raising but to subdue it to due process of the law.”

Harlan Fiske Stone's pictue

Time Magazine 1929.html

Supreme Court Historical Society


PBS Website


Jones Library - Stone Family Papers

Harlan F. Stone Memorial Bridge