Born: April 25, 1906, Newark, N.J. Educated: University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Finance 1928; Harvard Law School, 1931 Married: In 1928 to Marjorie Leonard Brennan (1907 - 1982); On March 9, 1983 to Mary Fowler Brennan (Aug. 15, 1916 - April 2, 2000) Recess appointment: October 1956, by President Dwight D. Eisenhower Nominated: Jan. 14, 1957, by President Eisenhower Commissioned: Oct. 16, 1956 Dates of Service: Oct. 16, 1956 to July 20, 1990 Died: July 24, 1997, Arlington, VA.
One of the most influential members of the Supreme Court under the Warren years, Justice Brennan authored more than 1,360 opinions during his 34 years on the U.S. Supreme Court. His view of the role of the court led to decisions that expanded the rights of racial minorities and women, fostered protections for free speech, and led to reapportionment of voting districts along the "one person, one vote" principle. He was renowned for his persistence in building consensus, employing civility and persuasive reason to sway others to his view.
Brennan was the namesake of an immigrant father who worked in a brewary and became a union leader and Newark's commissioner of public safety before his death in 1930, when Justice Brennan was still in law school. Attending on a scholarship, he completed his education and practiced law in Newark until entering the Army in 1942, where he rose to the rank of colonel, handling labor disputes while serving on the staff of the secretary of war.
After World War II, Brennan returned to his practice, specializing in labor law, but took an appointment to a state court in 1949. Three years later the Republican governor appointed him to the New Jersey Supreme Court. President Eisenhower gave him a recess appointment to the Supreme Court on Oct. 16, 1956, to succeed Justice Sherman Minton, who was retiring for health reasons. The Senate confirmed the appointment March 19, 1957 by voice vote.
After Brennan himself retired following a debilitating stroke, he continued to espouse his judicial philosophy. In an essay published the year of his death he wrote, "The genius of the Constitution rests not in any static meaning it may have had in a world that is dead and gone, but in the adaptability of its great principles to cope with current problems and present needs."
He received the Presidential medal of Freedom in 1993. Justice David H. Souter, who succeeded Brennan to the high court, said at the time of Brennan's death that "One can agree with the Brennan opinions and one may disagree with them, but their collective influence is an enormously powerful defining force in the contemporary life of this republic."