Justice William Strong

Justice William Strong joined the U.S. Supreme Court on March 14, 1870, replacing Justice Robert Cooper Grier. Strong was born on May 6, 1808 in northeastern Connecticut. He received a bachelor’s degree from Yale in 1828 and a master’s degree from there in 1831. Strong then moved to Pennsylvania and entered private practice.

Between 1847 and 1851, Strong served in the U.S. House of Representatives. However, he chose not to pursue a third term in 1850. In 1857, he was elected to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, where he would remain for 11 years.

On February 7, 1870, President Ulysses S. Grant nominated Strong to the U.S. Supreme Court. Grant had previously nominated former U.S. Secretary of War Edwin Stanton for the vacancy, but he died shortly after the Senate confirmed him. On February 18, the Senate confirmed Strong, and he took the judicial oath about a month later. He would serve on the Court for slightly over a decade. One of his most notable opinions involved an early interpretation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Strong found that this prevented the systematic exclusion of African-Americans from juries.

After the 1876 presidential election, Congress formed an electoral commission to determine whether Republican candidate Rutherford B. Hayes or Democrat candidate Samuel Tilden should receive a group of disputed electoral votes. Strong served on the commission with four of his fellow Justices, five Senators, and five members of the House of Representatives. As part of the Republican majority, he voted to award the disputed votes to Hayes, who thus received the presidency.

Strong retired on December 14, 1880 and was replaced by Justice William Burnham Woods. He died on August 19, 1895 in Ulster County, New York and is buried in Pennsylvania.

Selected Opinions by Justice Strong:

Kohl v. U.S. (1875)

Topic: Property Rights & Land Use

The right of eminent domain exists in the federal government and may be exercised by it within the states to the extent that it is necessary to the enjoyment of the powers conferred on the federal government by the Constitution.

Strauder v. West Virginia (1880)

Topic: Criminal Trials & Prosecutions; Equal Protection

When a state law secures to every white man the right of trial by a jury selected from and without discrimination against his race, and at the same time permits or requires such discrimination against the colored man because of his race, the latter is not equally protected by law with the former.