Stories of America’s Lawyer-Presidents to be Told in New Museum Exhibit
CHICAGO, Sept. 7, 2004 – Twenty-five of America’s 43 presidents were lawyers. One argued the famous Amistad case of 1841, another volunteered his legal services to fugitive slaves and the Underground Railroad, one argued a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case both before and after his presidency, and one was involved in more than 5,000 cases during his legal career.
Relatively little has been known about the legal careers of America’s lawyer-presidents – until now.
A new exhibit at the American Bar Association Museum of Law, America’s Lawyer Presidents: From Law Office to Oval Office, will explore the legal careers of America’s lawyer-presidents, from John Adams to William Jefferson Clinton, and how their experiences as lawyers shaped their presidencies. The exhibit opens Sept. 20. “While law has been the primary profession of many U.S. presidents, little is known about their legal careers and the important role their legal backgrounds have played in their presidencies,” said ABA President Robert Grey. “This exhibit is the first of its kind to take a look at their fascinating stories.”
According to Museum Director Norman Gross, visitors will have the opportunity to view more than 250 photographs and images, including artifacts such as an indictment by New York Attorney General Martin Van Buren, Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s business card, and a bust and paintings of Abraham Lincoln along with several of his legal documents. There is also an introductory video.
The 3,200 square-foot exhibit is presented chronologically, highlighting the lawyer-presidents of each era:
* “Founding Fathers and Sons” looks at the presidencies of colonial-era lawyers, including John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe and John Quincy Adams, and their influence on the founding of our country.
* “Antebellum Presidents” examines how the legal careers and presidencies of lawyers Andrew Jackson, Martin Van Buren, John Tyler, James Polk and Millard Fillmore reflected a challenging and critical time in American history.
* “Lawyer Lincoln” highlights how law was a central part of Abraham Lincoln’s life and how it shaped major events during his presidency.
* “Gilded Age Presidents” examines the surprisingly notable legal careers of lawyer-presidents from 1877 to 1901, including Rutherford Hayes, James Garfield, Chester Arthur, Grover Cleveland, Benjamin Harrison and William McKinley.
* “New Century Presidents” explores the diverse experiences of lawyer-presidents in the first half of the 20th century, including William Howard Taft, Woodrow Wilson, Calvin Coolidge and Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
* “The Modern Presidency” features the only three presidents in the last half of the 20th century who were lawyers – Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford and William Clinton.
The Museum of Law, located at 321 N. Clark Street in Chicago, will be open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. beginning Sept. 20. Admission is free. For more information contact Norman Gross at 312/988-5730 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
A 362-page companion book to the exhibit, America’s Lawyer-Presidents: From Law Office to Oval Office, is also available in local bookstores and through the American Bar Association at 800/285-2221 or www.ababooks.org.
The ABA Museum of Law, open since 1996, is the only national museum that focuses on law and legal issues. It is an independent, not-for-profit entity governed by a nine-member board of directors.
With more than 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is the largest voluntary professional membership organization in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law in a democratic society.