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Fred M. Vinson, the thirteenth Chief Justice of the United States, started his political career as a small-town Kentucky lawyer and rose to positions of power in all three branches of federal government. Born in Louisa, Kentucky, Vinson earned undergraduate and law degrees from Centre College in Danville. He served 12 years in the U.S. House of Representatives, where he achieved acclaim as a tax and fiscal expert. President Roosevelt appointed him to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia and later named him to key executive-branch positions. President Truman appointed him Secretary of the Treasury and then Chief Justice. The Vinson court was embroiled in critical issues affecting racial discrimination and individual rights during the cold war. Chief Justice Fred M. Vinson of Kentucky: A Political Biography offers a wealth of insight into one of the most significant and highly regarded political figures to emerge from Kentucky.

James E. St. Clair is associate professor of journalism at Indiana University Southeast.

Linda C. Gugin is professor of political science at Indiana University Southeast.

"At long last we have a first-rate biography of Fred Vinson that accounts for his significance in a thorough and readable fashion. Students of the U.S. Supreme Court, World War II, and American and Kentucky politics will profit from this book."—Robert M. Ireland

"This book conveys his life and times effectively."—Appalachian Heritage

"Presents a memorable portrait of an admirable in unappreciated statesman."—Appellate Practice Journal

"Provides a sympathetic, easily read portrait of a small-town lawyer who rose to the top levels of all three branches of federal government."—Centrepiece

"This readable biography of an eminent Kentuckian corrects this oversight to a significant degree and provides the basis for re-examining Vinson’s reputation. . . . An engaging narrative."—David J. Bodenhamer

"Frederick Moore Vinson (1890-1953) was the thirteenth chief justice of the United States (1946-1953), and, until now, the only one of that number without a full biography."—H-New Reviews

"A highly readable, balanced biography. . . . A useful addition to all libraries."—Journal of American History

"Their excellent biography is dedicated largely to showing the Vinson ‘was so much more’ than just head of the American judiciary from 1946 to 1953, for his pubic career prior to that had spanned a quarter-century and was among the most distinguished of his time. . . . A superb and much-needed contribution to political and judicial history."—Journal of Southern History

"The first in-depth analysis of Fred M. Vinson, Kentucky’s only chief justice of the United States."—Kentucky Monthly

"Provides a basis for reevaluating Vinson’s reputation as a failure on the Supreme Court. . . . This is a ‘must read’ for anyone who hopes to understand the Vinson court."—Law and Politics Book Review

"Meticulously assimilates—for the first time in a single source—an erudite yet accessible comparative analysis examining Vinson’s largely overlooked but pioneering roles in developing modern governmental functions."—Leo

"St. Clair and Gugin provide a sympathetic, easily read portrait of a successful and devoted public servant. Even half a century after his death, Vinson remains a model worthy of emulation."—Lexington Herald-Leader

"Opens a path for others to tread as the varied career of the most famous Kentuckian you’ve never heard of increasingly comes to light."—Louisville Courier-Journal

Publication Date



The University Press of Kentucky

Place of Publication

Lexington, KY






Fred M. Vinson, U.S. Supreme Court, Judges


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Chief Justice Fred M. Vinson of Kentucky: A Political Biography
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