Collection Summary

Creator: Prettyman, E. Barrett
Title: The Papers of E. Barrett Prettyman, Jr. 1944 - 1982
Accession: MSS 86-5
Description: 4 boxes; 3 linear feet
Location: SC - Basement
Photograph Collection: View 5 digitized photographs
Digitized Content: 1,816 objects
Use Restrictions: There are no restrictions.

Collection Description & Arrangement

The papers of E. Barrett Prettyman, Jr. consist of correspondence files dating from 1944 to 1982, as well as the working papers from his clerkship for Justices Jackson, Frankfurter and Harlan (1953-1955).

Prettyman had arranged the correspondence by name of the justice who was the correspondent/subject. For each man there is correspondence from Prettyman's clerkship period and later correspondence with other former clerks about reunions. In addition, the Jackson correspondence contains a few letters from Jackson and a good many related to his death. In the Frankfurter file there are many short, handwritten notes from Frankfurter to his clerk commenting on cases before the Court as they were being heard, making requests, or expressing opinions about other justices' views. Frankfurter's notes are also sprinkled throughout the case materials. The Harlan letters date from the period just before he went on the Court until the time of his death, since Justice and Mrs. Harlan maintained their friendship with Prettyman and his wife Evelyn after the short clerkship ended.

The working papers contain one or more folders on a dozen specific cases, several folders on an assortment of cases, and twelve folders containing Prettyman's certiorari petition memoranda annotated by the three justices. Of the case material, the most significant concerns Brown v. Board of Educationand includes drafts of Prettyman's memoranda to Jackson regarding the justice's draft opinion, the map of Spartanburg, Prettyman's memo concerning implementation, and signed copies of the opinion and the decree.

This collection documenting the work of a Supreme Court law clerk is significant because of the stature of the three justices Prettyman clerked for at such an important time in the Court's history. Furthermore, records of Supreme Court clerkships are rare. Legal historians of the Brown era will find these papers valuable and interesting.


Biographical & Historical Information

E. Barrett Prettyman, Jr., a life-long resident of the Washington, D.C. area, received his undergraduate degree from Yale University in 1949. He attended law school at the University of Virginia and served on the editorial board of the Virginia Law Review. In addition he was active in the Student Legal Forum on behalf of which he extended speaking invitations to Justices Robert H. Jackson and Felix Frankfurter, both of whom accepted. In late 1952 Prettyman was selected to clerk for Justice Jackson after graduation the following June.

The Supreme Court was deeply involved in consideration of Brown v. Board of Educationwhen Prettyman began his clerkship. In his history of Browntitled Simple Justice(New York: Alfred Knopf, 1975), Richard Kluger describes in detail the work of the justices in early 1954. "[Chief Justice Earl] Warren's highest hope, for a single unanimous opinion, did not look especially bright. It rested in large part on his overcoming the philosophical reservations of both Felix Frankfurter and Robert Jackson, men who could talk, write and think rings around the Chief Justice. Neither was likely to curl up at Warren's mere bidding."(683)

Justice Frankfurter circulated a memorandum outlining his thoughts in January, and in February Justice Jackson wrote out his ideas in a lengthy draft opinion. He began: "The race problem would be quickly solved if some way could be found to make us all live up to our hypocrisies." Jackson discussed the history of racism from the legislative and judicial perspective and found no acceptable justification for revising the pattern. He finally concluded that segregation should be forcefully put to rest simply because the black population, not the Constitution, had changed.

Barrett Prettyman read Jackson's memorandum and wrote a thoughtful reply. Of Prettyman's work, Kluger wrote: "It is doubtful if any of the many excellent young men who have come fresh out of the law schools or soon thereafter to serve the Justices of the Supreme Court ever served more faithfully or usefully than Barrett Prettyman served Justice Jackson. What part Prettyman's memo played will never be known, but it is a fact that Jackson, having written this much on the segregation cases, wrote no more."(691)

Justice Jackson had a heart attack about seven weeks before the decision in Brownwas handed down in the spring of 1954. During his subsequent extended hospitalization, Prettyman brought work for him to review, including Chief Justice Warren's draft opinion in Brownand Justice Frankfurter's colorful and verbose reports of the justices' conferences. Despite his poor health, Jackson was on the bench on May 17 when the unanimous Browndecision was handed down.

During the summer of 1954 Chief Justice Warren appointed six clerks to study and report ways that desegregation might be implemented. Prettyman, a member of this team, was assigned to map out Spartanburg, South Carolina, in terms of its black and white population and to suggest a prototypical plan for integrating its schools; other clerks were given similar assignments. They then pooled their ideas to formulate an approach the Supreme Court should take on implementation of integration, but could not agree on the important question of timing. Prettyman favored a compromise between forcing immediate desegregation and allowing communities an indefinite period of time to act.

Justice Jackson died in the fall of 1954, and Prettyman went to work for Justice Frankfurter, who had the highest praise for the young man's work and clearly took a personal interest in him. John Marshall Harlan, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, was nominated in November 1954 to take Jackson's place on the Court. Harlan's mere name put Senate conservatives on guard because his grandfather had been the sole dissenter in Plessy v. Ferguson; consequently his nomination was held up in the Senate for four months. In the interim he invited Prettyman to be one of his first two clerks, and Prettyman accepted.

At the conclusion of his clerkship in the early summer of 1955, Barrett Prettyman joined the Washington, D.C. firm of Hogan and Hartson, where he is now a partner.

Acquisition Information

Date Received 1986
Donor Information This collection was given to the University of Virginia Law Library by E. Barrett Prettyman on September 12, 1986. A photocopy of the Deed of Gift signed by E. Barrett Prettyman is included in the record.

Content List

Box 1:

  • Justice Harold H. Burton: Letter and miscellaneous documents 1949, 1954
  • Justice Tom C. Clark: Correspondence and miscellaneous documents 1954, 1967-68
  • Justice William O. Douglas: Letters and memorandum 1947-53, n.d.
  • Justice Felix Frankfurter: Correspondence 1944-1963, n.d.
  • Justice Felix Frankfurter: Correspondence re reunion of former clerks 1956-82
  • Justice Felix Frankfurter: Printed material and memorabilia 1954-1982
  • Justice John M. Harlan: Correspondence 1954-66
  • Justice John M. Harlan: Correspondence among former clerks 1955-81
  • Justice John M. Harlan: Printed material and memorabilia 1955-65, n.d.
  • Justice Robert H. Jackson: Correspondence 1944-56, n.d.
  • Justice Robert H. Jackson: Correspondence re reunion of clerks [and Jackson lectures], 1964-1965
  • Justice Robert H. Jackson: Correspondence re reunion of former clerks [and Jackson lectures], 1966-69
  • Justice Robert H. Jackson: Memorabilia 1955, n.d.
  • "The Exchange of Destroyers for Atlantic Bases" by Robert H. Jackson [1954] [Carbon copy]
  • Correspondence concerning publication of destroyer articles by Robert H. Jackson 1955, 1957
  • Justice Robert H. Jackson: Clippings primarily from the time of his death 1954

Box 2:

  • Case Material: Accardi v. Shaughnessy 1954
  • Case Material: Brown v. Board of Education 1954-56 - Correspondence primarily of E. Barrett Prettyman, Jr., Felix Frankfurter, and John M. Harlan. Includes Map of Spartansburg, S.C. [See oversized materials]
  • Brown v. Board of Education, Working papers [1954-56]
  • Brown v. Board of Education, Signed opinion and decree 1954, 1955
  • Case Material: Ellis v. Dixon 1954-55
  • Case Material: Garner v. Teamsters, Chauffeurs, etc. 1953
  • Case Material: Irvine v. California 1953-54
  • Case Material: Miller Brothers v. Maryland 1953-54
  • Case Material: Net Worth Cases 1954-55 [2 folders]
  • Case Material: Railway Express Agency v. Virginia 1953-54
  • Case Material: Special List Conference 1953-54
  • Case Material: U.S. v. Five Gambling Devices; U.S. v. Denmark and Braun 1953
  • Case Material: Weber v. Anheuser-Busch 1954-55
  • Case Material: Westinghouse Employees v. Westinghouse 1954-55
  • Case Material: Williams v. Georgia 1955
  • Case Material: Loose pages of printed opinions annotated by Felix Frankfurter 1951, 1954

Box 3:

  • Case Material: Memoranda primarily by EBP 1953-55 [2 folders]
  • Case Material: Miscellaneous printed Supreme Court documents 1953-54

Boxes 3 – 4:

  • Certiorari Petition Memoranda 1953-55 [12 folders]

Oversize Material:

  • Hand-drawn map of Spartanburg, S.C. indicating homes of black and white residents and locations of schools 1955 [Box 2, folder: Brown v. Board of Education]

Photograph Collection:

  • Snapshot of Chief Justice Earl Warren with Simon Soboloff, Solicitor General, and Justice Robert Jackson at the ABA convention 1954
  • Formal portrait of the U.S. Supreme Court 1953
  • Photo and photo of a sketch of Justice John M. Harlan 1970, n.d.
  • Reunion of Harlan law clerks 1965 [6 group photos Photographs of Justice John M. Harlan and Mrs. Harlan, former clerks and their wives]
  • [Supreme Court office of Justice Robert H. Jackson?] 1954 [2 photos]


Associated People

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Preferred Citation

Papers of E. Barrett Prettyman, Jr. MSS 86-5, Box Number, Special Collections, University of Virginia Law Library

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