Earl Warren (March 19, 1891 – July 9, 1974) was an American politician and jurist who served as the Governor of California from 1943 to 1953 and Chief Justice of the United States from 1953 to 1969. The “Warren Court” presided over a major shift in American constitutional jurisprudence, which has been recognized by many as a “Constitutional Revolution” of the liberal, with Warren writing the majority opinions in landmark cases such as Brown v. Board of Education (1954), Reynolds v. Sims (1964), Miranda v. Arizona (1966) and Loving v. Virginia (1967). Warren also led the Warren Commission, a presidential commission that investigated the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy. He is, as of 2019, the last Chief Justice to have served in an elected office before entering the Supreme Court, and is generally considered to be one of the most influential Supreme Court justices and political leaders in the history of the United States.
Warren was born in 1891 in Los Angeles and was raised in Bakersfield, California. After graduating from the law program at the University of California, Berkeley, he began a legal career in Oakland. He was hired as a deputy district attorney for Alameda County in 1920 and was appointed district attorney in 1925. He emerged as a leader of the state Republican Party and won election as the Attorney General of California in 1938. In that position, he played a role in the forced removal and internment of over 100,000 Japanese Americans during World War II. In the 1942 California gubernatorial election, Warren defeated incumbent Democratic governor Culbert Olson. He would serve as Governor of California until 1953, presiding over a period of major growth for the state. In 1945, the United Nations Charter was signed in San Francisco while Warren was the governor. As of 2019, Warren is the only governor of California who had been elected for three consecutive terms.
Warren served as Thomas E. Dewey’s running mate in the 1948 presidential election, but Dewey lost the election to incumbent President Harry S. Truman. Warren sought the Republican nomination in the 1952 presidential election, but the party nominated General Dwight D. Eisenhower. After Eisenhower won election as president, he appointed Warren as Chief Justice. Warren helped arrange a unanimous decision in Brown v. Board of Education (1954), which ruled that racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional. After Brown, the Warren Court would continue to issue rulings that helped bring an end to the segregationist Jim Crow laws that were prevalent throughout the South. In Heart of Atlanta Motel, Inc. v. United States (1964), the Court upheld the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a federal law that prohibits racial segregation in public institutions and public accommodations. In addition, a series of rulings made by the Warren Court in the 1950s directly led to the decline of McCarthyism.
In the 1960s, the Warren Court handed down several landmark rulings that significantly transformed criminal procedure, redistricting, and other areas of the law. Many of the Court’s decisions incorporated the Bill of Rights, making the protections of the Bill of Rights apply to state and local governments. Gideon v. Wainwright (1963) established a criminal defendant’s right to an attorney in felony cases, while Miranda v. Arizona (1966) required police officers to give a warning (known as Miranda warning afterwards) to criminal suspects in police custody. Reynolds v. Sims (1964) established that all state legislative districts must be of roughly equal population, while the Court’s holding in Wesberry v. Sanders (1964) required equal populations for congressional districts, thus achieving “one man, one vote” in the United States. Furthermore, Griswold v. Connecticut (1965) struck down a state law that restricted access to contraceptives and established a constitutional right to privacy, and Loving v. Virginia (1967) struck down all state laws banning interracial marriage. Warren announced his retirement in 1968, and was succeeded by conservative appellate judge Warren Burger (Burger Court) in 1969. Though the Warren Court’s rulings have received criticism from many conservatives, as well as from some other quarters, they received widespread support and acclamation from the liberal and few of the Court’s decisions have been overturned.