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Iowa History Daily: July 16 - Samuel Freeman Miller Joins SCOTUS

Iowa History Daily: On July 16, 1862, The United States Senate confirmed Samuel Freeman Miller, Iowa’s first appointee to the United States Supreme Court. One of two Iowans ever to serve on America’s highest court, the Abraham Lincoln appointed abolitionist joined the Supreme Court as the Civil War plagued the country.

Born in Richmond, Kentucky during 1816, Miller developed anti-slavery views while earning a medical degree and practicing medicine in Barbourville, Kentucky, for a decade. Studying law in his spare time, Miller passed the bar exam in 1847 and decided to move to a more abolition-minded state.

Arriving in Keokuk during 1850, the future Supreme Court Justice put his views into action upon arrival. Miller freed several enslaved people brought with his family from Kentucky. Immediately involved in Iowa politics, he proved a staunch supporter of Abraham Lincoln in the Election of 1860. Nominated to the United States Supreme Court by Lincoln and confirmed by the Senate on July 15, 1862, Miller took the oath of office on July 21.

Miller authored 616 opinions during a 28 year tenure on the court, more than any of his contemporaries. Favored for the seat of Chief Justice publicly in 1873, Miller ultimately did not gain the nomination of President Ulysses Grant. Buried in Keokuk’s Oakland Cemetery, the Lee County Historical Society remembers Miller through maintenance of the Justice Samuel Freeman Miller House Museum. #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaHistoryCalendar


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