Supreme Court justice and Western New York native's legacy remembered
Members of the Western New York community gathered today for a ceremony celebrating the dedication of the U.S. Courthouse in Buffalo for Robert H. Jackson, and unveiled the Supreme Court justice and Western New York native's name on the building's wall.
Representatives of the federal government, courts, legal community, as well as leaders from Jamestown's Robert H. Jackson Center and Jackson's family and friends were in attendance.
"Robert H. Jackson was at the center of some of the greatest judicial debates of the 20th century, and to this day, his intellect, his judgment, and his character makes proud the region he called home. Today's ceremony will cement the legacy of a man who dedicated his life to the pursuit of justice, and achieved great ends in the struggle for civil rights, and the prosecution of war criminals at Nuremberg," said U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer. "I was proud to introduce the legislation with my colleagues that made today possible, because I can think of no better way to honor his legacy than to rename the courthouse - not far from where he lived and worked - in his honor."
"The downtown Buffalo U.S. courthouse will now officially carry the name of Jamestown's own Justice Robert H. Jackson - honoring his tremendous public service to our community and our entire country," said U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. "From serving on America's highest court, to his role as the architect of the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg, Justice Jackson always served with integrity, and was a true champion for human rights. This is the perfect opportunity for Western New York to celebrate and honor his legacy."
"Justice Jackson's story is a uniquely Western New York story - a uniquely American story - and there is no doubt in my mind that, with his name on our courthouse, his story will continue inspire Western New Yorkers for generations to come," said Congressman Brian Higgins.
"We are absolutely honored to have the federal courthouse named for the only justice of the United States Supreme Court to come from Western New York," said Robert H. Jackson Center Co-Founder Greg Peterson. "Many people, private and public, worked to make this tribute to Justice Robert H. Jackson a reality."
Denise L. Pease, U.S. General Services Administration regional administrator added, "Today's ceremony not only honors the memory of Justice Robert Jackson, but we also add to the prestige of this beautiful building by naming it after him. The Robert H. Jackson United States Courthouse is one of the many significant federal courthouses that will continue the legacy of great public buildings that we can be proud of in this country."
"Justice Jackson is widely regarded, in the U.S. and internationally, as one of law's leading figures," said Professor John Q. Barrett of St. John's University and the Robert H. Jackson Center. "It is to Buffalo and Western New York's great credit that the Jackson Courthouse recognizes his great achievements as a lawyer and a judge."
During the ceremony, a bust of Jackson, which will be on display inside the courthouse, was also presented. The bust, created by Dexter Benedict, is a replica of one currently featured in a statue in Jamestown, and another recently presented to Chief Justice of the U.S. John G. Roberts Jr. for display in the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C.
A New Home for Federal Law Rises in Buffalo
Construction on the 10-story, 261,000-square-foot federal courthouse began in 2007 after Congress authorized General Services Administration to proceed on the $137 million project in Buffalo. The building, which sits on a 1-3/4-acre parcel at Niagara Square, is home to five district and four magistrate courtrooms, as well as supporting space for the U.S. Marshals Service, U.S. Attorney, Probation and Pretrial Services, the Federal Public Defender and the U.S. General Services Administration.
The glass-covered structure, which opened in November of 2011, features an entranceway that includes an inscription the Constitution etched into glass facade. The building achieved LEED gold certification under U.S. Green Building Council standards and won the 2011 Award for Design and Manufacturing Excellence from the Architectural Precast Association.
Honoring Jackson's Legacy
On Oct. 5, President Obama signed into law H.R. 3556, which named Buffalo's new federal courthouse for Justice Robert H. Jackson. The bill, which was introduced by Higgins in the House and senators Schumer and Gillibrand in the Senate, received final passage from Congress in September of 2012. The bill received bipartisan support, including co-sponsorship by the entire New York Congressional Delegation.
The Life of Robert H. Jackson
Jackson was raised in Frewsburg, near Jamestown, and as an adult lived on Johnson Park in Buffalo - just streets away from the new federal courthouse named in his honor. He was a prominent local and soon regional and national attorney, practicing law for two years in the historic Ellicott Square building and then in Jamestown until 1934 when President Roosevelt called him to public service in Washington, D.C.
His titles there included: assistant attorney general for tax and antitrust, U.S. solicitor general, and U.S. attorney general. In 1941, Jackson was appointed to the Supreme Court, where he served for 13 terms and took part in numerous historic decisions, including the landmark case Brown v. Board of Education, which prohibited racial segregation.
In 1945, President Truman asked Jackson to take leave from the court to serve as the U.S. chief prosecutor for the country during trials prosecuting Nazi war criminals at Nuremberg.
Despite his prominent role in one of the most notable international trials, Jackson never forgot his roots. Upon returning from Europe, he took a train to Buffalo to address the University at Buffalo's centennial and receive its first-ever honorary degree.
Jackson died in 1954 and is buried at Maple Grove Cemetery in Frewsburg, not far from his childhood home.