FRANKFURTER, FELIX. (1882-1965). Austrian-born, American jurist; Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court (1939-1962). ALS. (“FF”). 2pp. Oblong 8vo. Washington, D.C., February 7, 1964. On his Supreme Court stationery to which he has added his home address on Massachusetts Avenue. To Ted at the Atlantic Monthly.
Autograph Letter Signed by the Supreme Court Justice about His Good Friends, Playwright Garson Kanin and Justice Learned Hand
Signed by Felix Frankfurter
“On Wednesday Gardner Cox was here and told me that in the Feb. issue of the Atlantic there is to be ‘a wonderful article on F.F. by Garson Kanin.’ My Feb. copy has come but no Garson Kanin. Was it omitted from my copy to save me from blushing? I hope that Gardner’s portrait of you will be half as good as those he painted of Learned Hand and more recently … of me. With cordial regards, Ever yours…”
As a student, Frankfurter had edited the Harvard Law Review, and after serving in the federal Bureau of Insular Affairs, a division of the War Department, he returned to Harvard as a professor, making a name for himself as a legal scholar. In 1920, he helped found the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). He became an advisor to Franklin Roosevelt during both his New York governorship and presidency, and in 1939 FDR appointed him to the Supreme Court. He served until August 1962, when he retired four months after suffering a stroke.
In addition to his defense of Sacco and Vanzetti and his liberal court opinions, he is also remembered for the publication Of Law and Men, a collection of essays on such well-known contemporaries as Alfred E. Smith, Alfred North Whitehead, Harold Laski, Lord Lothian, John Dewey, and Thomas Mann.
The subject of our letter is a tribute penned by Frankfurter’s friend, American writer and director Garson Kanin (1912-1999) and published in the March 1964 issue of The Atlantic. It was reprinted the same year in a festschrift, Felix Frankfurter: A Tribute edited by Wallace Mendelson. In it, Garson remarked, “Felix is everyone’s contemporary… His subject is human beings; not in the abstract, nor in the mass, but one by one… In Felix’s life there are no strangers.”
Gardner Cox (1906-1988) was an American portraitist whose subjects include Henry Kissinger, Robert Frost, Robert Kennedy, Dean Rusk, and Supreme Court Justices Earl Warren, Potter Stewart, Byron White, and Frankfurter. Learned Hand (1872-1961) distinguished himself through his decisions as a judge of the United States District Court of Appeals and through his legal writing. He was quoted frequently in Supreme Court decisions and became known as the “tenth justice of the Supreme Court.” A strong defender of free speech and civil liberties as well as an accomplished orator, his “I Am an American Day” speech on May 21, 1944, has been likened to Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address,” and his 1952 collection of addresses and essays, The Spirit of Liberty, was extremely popular and did much to increase his public profile. Written on the recto and verso of a U.S. Supreme Court correspondence card and in excellent condition.