The New York Times's worshipful 1935 obituary for Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

Yesterday, I criticized Judge Richard Posner's harsh criticism of what I thought was an anodyne tribute to the late Justice Antonin Scalia by Justice Elena Kagan (FYI, the post has been updated). This reminded me that way back in 1935, the New York Times didn't exactly hold back in the opening paragraphs of its obituary for Justice Holmes:

As Justice Holmes grew old he became a figure for legend. Eager young students of history and the law, with no possibility of an introduction to him, made pilgrimages to Washington merely that they might remember at least the sight of him on the bench of the Supreme Court. Others so fortunate as to be invited to his home were apt to consider themselves thereafter as men set apart. Their elders, far from discouraging this attitude, strengthened it.

A group of leading jurists and liberals filled a volume of essays in praise of him, and on the occasion of its presentation Chief Justice Hughes said:

"The most beautiful and the rarest thing in the world is a complete human life, unmarred, unified by intelligent purpose and uninterrupted accomplishment, blessed by great talent employed in the worthiest activities, with a deserving fame never dimmed and always growing. Such a rarely beautiful life is that of Mr. Justice Holmes."


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