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Congressman, Secretary of State, and state legislator. He had several older brothers, possibly including a mulatto half-brother, Robert James Harlan, born in into slavery.

His father raised his half-brother in his own household, making sure that he received an education. Historians have suggested that his closeness to his brother may have influenced Harlan to argue on behalf of equal rights. He entered state politics in eventually serving as Attorney General of Kentucky from Throughout his political career, Harlan was quite versatile in his political affiliations.

Harlan Elementary School / Homepage

He was first aligned with the Whig party like his father until it dissolved in the early s. He shifted his affiliation to the Know Nothings, despite his discomfort with their opposition to Catholicism. He renounced his allegiance to them to support the Constitutional Union party backing John Bell in his run for president in against Abraham Lincoln.

Patty Loveless "You'll Never Leave Harlan Alive"

He next joined the National Union party, and then the Democratic party to campaign for George McClellan in the presidential election against Abraham Lincoln. Originally a Union supporter, after the election of Ulysses S. Grant as President in , Harlan reversed his allegiance and became a strong supporter of civil rights. He was appointed as a member of the Supreme Court in He was 44 years old when he ascended to the High Court and cut quite an impressive figure.

Harlan County

At six feet, two inches tall and something over pounds with thinning reddish blond hair and an erect bearing, he conveyed an impression of robustness that stayed with him for the nearly 34 years he served on the Court. A Christian fundamentalist, his beliefs strongly shaped his views during his tenure.

He is best known for condemning racial segregation in his lone dissenting of Plessy v. Harlan believed that the judiciary should serve as the defender of private property and the rights of individuals. His tenure of 33 years on the Court was one of the longest in history, and he wrote a total of 1, opinions, of which were dissents.

The pair had six children, three sons, and three daughters. Beyond the courtroom, Harlan is dedicated to giving back.


Harlan and Alice, his wife of more than 30 years, have two daughters, one of whom is in law school and the other is an elementary school teacher in Washington, D. Representing a Fortune company in a series of class actions, mass actions and single-plaintiff actions alleging that historical operations of a manufacturing facility contaminated the local environment. The various cases assert claims for personal injury, property damage and violations of federal environmental law.

White Jr. Duke University School of Law J. Duke University A. Harlan I.