The University of Iowa
The University of Iowa News Services Home News Releases UI in the News Subscribe to UI News Contact Us

University of Iowa News Release

Feb. 17, 2005

Biography Of Former UI Law Dean, Supreme Court Justice Honored

A biography of U.S. Supreme Court Justice and one-time University of Iowa law dean Wiley B. Rutledge has been awarded the Langum Prize as the top legal history published in 2004.

John M. Ferren, author of "Salt of the Earth, Conscience of the Court: The Story of Justice Wiley Rutledge," will visit the University of Iowa College of Law March 11 to meet with faculty, as well as law school alumni who studied under Rutledge. Ferren is also a Senior Judge of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals.

While at the UI law school, Ferren will speak to the faculty in a lecture about Rutledge and the Supreme Court of the 1940s. Rutledge was UI law dean from 1935 to 1939, when he left after his appointment to join the U.S. Court of Appeals for D.C. He was appointed a justice of the United States Supreme Court in 1943 and served until his death in 1949. He was the last of eight justices appointed by Franklin Roosevelt.

During his six years as a Supreme Court Justice, Rutledge authored 171 opinions. He was a champion of civil liberties as a judge and as a professor, and made sure the students who took his classes understood that the law's ultimate goal is to produce fairness instead of advantage in its application.

Ferren's book is the first full biography of Rutledge and has received significant critical acclaim beyond winning the Langum Prize. Ferren conducted approximately 160 interviews with those who knew the Justice -- including family members, friends, former students and law clerks, including many Iowans. Among those he interviewed are 65 alumni from the College of Law classes of 1936-1941, as well as the first College of Law professor that Rutledge hired, W. Willard Wirtz, who later served as U.S. Secretary of Labor in the Lyndon Johnson administration.

Ferren delved into the Rutledge papers housed at the Library of Congress, as well as primary material from more than twenty different archives and forty manuscript collections. Among those was the collection of Rutledge-era archives housed in the UI Libraries' Special Collections department and in the College of Law.

Ferren's efforts resulted in a meticulously researched, yet highly readable biography. Current Justice John Paul Stevens, who once clerked for Rutledge, praised the book as "a superb piece of work that anyone interested in the history of our Court will enjoy immensely."

The Langum Prize, awarded by the Langum Historical Trust of Birmingham, Ala., is awarded to an American legal history or American legal biography that is accessible to the educated general public, rooted in sound scholarship, and has themes that touch upon matters of general concern to the American public, past or present.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Service, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Tom Snee, 319-384-0010, tom-snee@uiowa.edu.