Justice Ward Hunt

Justice Ward Hunt joined the U.S. Supreme Court on January 9, 1873, replacing Justice Samuel Nelson. Hunt was born on June 14, 1810 in Utica, New York. He graduated from Union College in 1828 and then studied law in Utica and in Connecticut. In 1831, he was admitted to the New York bar.

Hunt started his career in private practice but soon entered politics. He served a term in the New York state legislature in the late 1830s and was elected Mayor of Utica in 1844. Hunt helped form the New York Republican Party in the 1850s. He was elected to the New York Court of Appeals in 1865. Three years later, Hunt became the Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals, although he held this position only briefly. After a judicial reorganization, he served as a Commissioner of Appeals from 1870 to 1872.

On December 3, 1872, President Ulysses S. Grant nominated Hunt to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Senate confirmed him on December 11, and he took the judicial oath about a month later. Hunt rarely addressed constitutional issues, although his dissent in the early voting rights case of U.S. v. Reese voiced a broad vision of the Fifteenth Amendment.

Hunt suffered a paralytic stroke in January 1879. Under existing law, he would not have received a full pension if he retired at that time, so he remained on the Court for another three years despite being unable to effectively participate in its activities. Fortunately, Congress approved a special pension bill for him in January 1882. Hunt duly retired on January 27, 1882 and was replaced by Justice Samuel Blatchford. He died on March 24, 1886 in Washington, D.C. and was buried in Utica.