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T, Thornberry, William Homer

Edited By: Kermit L. Hall, James W. Ely Jr., Joel B. Grossman

From: The Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court of the United States (2nd Edition)

Edited By: Kermit L. Hall

From: Oxford Constitutions (http://oxcon.ouplaw.com). (c) Oxford University Press, 2015. All Rights Reserved. Subscriber: null; date: 23 November 2020

Thornberry, William Homer

(b. Austin, Tex., 9 Jan. 1909; d. 12 Dec. 1995), federal judge and unconfirmed nominee to the Supreme Court. After a lengthy career in Texas politics, including service in state and local legislatures and eight terms in the U.S. House of Representatives (1949–1963), Thornberry was appointed to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas by President Lyndon Johnson in 1963. Two years later Johnson elevated Thornberry to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. On 26 June 1968, Johnson announced that he would nominate him for the U.S. Supreme Court vacancy that would be created by Johnson’s planned elevation of Justice Abe *Fortas to the chief justiceship to replace Earl *Warren. His “nomination” died on 2 October 1968, when President Johnson withdrew Fortas’s nomination, eliminating the vacancy that Thornberry would have filled. Although Thornberry was not implicated by the concerns about Fortas’s liberal decisions and alleged ethical improprieties, he, like Fortas, was viewed as a Johnson “crony.” In his book Justices and Presidents (p. 1020) (1985), Henry J. Abraham describes Thornberry as “a decent and experienced public servant of moderate ability, but he was hardly of the caliber that would have prompted a basically hostile Senate to overlook political factors” (p. 286). Thornberry returned to serve on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, where he remained until his death.

See also nominees, rejection of.

Susan M. Olson