Skip to Main Content

Our History: Featured Alumni/ae: McReynolds, James C., 1884

Over the decades our graduates have developed distinguished careers as justices, members of Congress, ambassadors, educators, business people, and community leaders in many fields. This site features some of those late graduates.

Arthur J. Morris Law Library

Law Library Home

Featured Alumni/ae

by Final Year at UVA Law




by Name

James Clark McReynolds

U.S. Supreme Court Justice

James Clark McReynolds was born on February 3, 1862, in Elkton, Kentucky. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Vanderbilt University in 1882, where he was elected valedictorian and served as editor-in-chief of The Vanderbilt Observer. After graduation, he began studying law at the University of Virginia, where he obtained a law degree in 1884. McReynolds then embarked on a lucrative private law practice in Nashville. From 1900 to 1903 he taught Commercial Law, Insurance, and Corporations at Vanderbilt University Law School. In 1903, however, he moved to Washington, D.C. and became Assistant Attorney General. He remained in the Justice Department for much of the time through 1912, though he also practiced law in New York City with the New York law firm of Cravath, Henderson & deGersdorff. During this period his vigorous prosecution of the "tobacco trust" bolstered his reputation among progressive reform groups. Active in Woodrow Wilson's successful presidential campaign in 1912, he was appointed Attorney General after briefly practicing law in New York City.

In 1914, Wilson appointed McReynolds to the United States Supreme Court where he served until his retirement in 1941. He was known as one of the conservative justices who opposed many of President Roosevelt’s New Deal programs, voting against more New Deal legislation than any other Justice on the Court.  He was also a generous benefactor of charities, particularly those for children. Justice McReynolds died in 1946.

Papers of Justice James Clark McReynolds 1819-1967, Special Collections, Arthur J. Morris Library, University of Virginia School of Law, Charlottesville, Va.

previous next