Robert H. Jackson: Humble Beginnings

It has been 100 years since Warren County native Robert H. Jackson was admitted to the bar in the state of New York.

Thanks to a court order from the NY Appellate Division, Fourth Department court, a rare glimpse has been provided into that process.

The Robert H. Jackson Center in Jamestown, NY has announced that they have received images of the official documents relating to Jackson’s admission to the bar. The documents include his application to the court, supporting affidavits, the court order granting his admission and his signature on the court’s roll of attorneys.

The documents were released in the 100th year since Jackson, who was born in Spring Creek, was admitted in 1913.

On behalf of the Jackson Center, John Q. Barrett, a law professor at St. John’s University and a Jackson Center board member , petitioned the court this fall for the release of the documents.

“The only instances I know of where New York Courts have ordered such releases were in response to the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library’s application for FDR’s bar admission papers, and now the Jackson Center’s application for Jackson’s,” said Barrett. “(The documents) are interesting as historical records, and of course as Jackson artifacts. They include many interesting nuggets, such as Jackson’s handwritten, succinct answers to various questions on the application.”

Jackson, who served as Chief U.S. Prosecutor of major Nazi war criminals at Nuremburg following World War II as well as a U.S. Supreme Court Justice from 1941 until his death in 1954, never actually graduated from law school. At the time, New York courts required a combination of three years of law study, either in school or in an office. Jackson spent one year at Albany Law School and completed the other two years as an apprentice with Jamestown attorneys Frank H. Mott and Benjamin S. Dean, who submitted affidavits on his behalf which were also released.

Mott wrote that “I have known him (Jackson) and of him since childhood, have observed his activities in school and am familiar with his capabilities as a law student and clerk in a law office, he having been a clerk in my office in the City of Jamestown for approximately three years. He is a young man of exceptional attainments as a student of the law and is thoroughly qualified by reason of his good judgment, personal character and general fitness for the practice of the law.”

In his application, when asked if he attended college, Jackson simply wrote “no college.” In explaining his time at Albany Law School, he wrote that he ‘Received no degree but received school diploma. One year of attendance being insufficient to obtain a degree.” He then explains that he has apprenticed with the “Office of Frank H. Mott at Jamestown N.Y. October 3rd 1910 to September 4th 1911 and again from June 10th 1912 to September 10th 1913.”

Jackson was then admitted to the bar on Nov. 24, 1913.

“The Jackson Center thanks the Appellate Division, Fourth Department, for its disclosure order, as well as the many New York law and history leaders and teachers who assisted in locating and liberating these documents,” said Barrett.