William Strong (Pennsylvania judge)

William Strong
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States
In office
February 18, 1870  December 14, 1880
Nominated by Ulysses S. Grant
Preceded by Robert Grier
Succeeded by William Woods
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Pennsylvania's 9th district
In office
March 4, 1847  March 3, 1851
Preceded by John Ritter
Succeeded by Glancy Jones
Personal details
Born (1808-05-06)May 6, 1808
Somers, Connecticut, U.S.
Died August 19, 1895(1895-08-19) (aged 87)
Lake Minnewaska, New York, U.S.
Political party Democratic (Before 1868)
Republican (1868–1895)
Education Yale University (BA, MA)

William Strong (May 6, 1808 August 19, 1895) was an American jurist and politician. He served as a justice of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania and was an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court of the United States under President Ulysses S. Grant. He also served on the Commission that adjudicated the disputed presidential election of 1876.

Early life

Strong was born in Somers, Connecticut and later moved to Pennsylvania. He was the eldest of eleven children of William Lightbourn Strong and Harriet (Deming) Strong.[1] He was the brother of Newton Deming Strong and the cousin of U.S. Representative Theron Rudd Strong of New York. William Strong attended the Monson Academy in Massachusetts, and graduated from Yale University in 1828 Phi Beta Kappa.[2] He taught school in Burlington, New Jersey while studying law with Garret D. Wall, and then completed his legal education with a six-month course at Yale Law School. After being admitted to the bar Strong started a legal practice in Reading, Pennsylvania, remaining in practice from 1832 to 1857.

House of Representatives

In 1846, Strong was elected to the United States House of Representatives as an abolitionist Democrat. Strong served two terms in the House, and was the chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Elections during his second term. He did not seek reelection in 1850, but returned to private practice.

Judicial Service

Supreme Court of Pennsylvania

Strong was elected to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania in 1857 as a Democrat. Strong switched to the Republican Party soon after taking the bench. He resigned from the court in 1868 to return to a lucrative private practice in Philadelphia.

United States Supreme Court

When Justice Robert C. Grier retired from the U.S. Supreme Court, Strong was suggested as a possible replacement. However, President Ulysses S. Grant was heavily lobbied to nominate former Secretary of War Edwin Stanton. Stanton was nominated, and confirmed by the United States Senate, but he died just four days later without having served on the Court. Grant then nominated Strong on February 7, 1870, who was confirmed without a recorded vote and was sworn in on March 14, 1870. Strong ruled for States Rights and against the Civil Rights Act of 1866 allowing African Americans to testify against Whites in Bylew v. United States. Justice Strong wrote the opinion for an early equal protection case in Strauder v. West Virginia, 100 U.S. 303 (1879).

1876 Election

Strong was one of five Supreme Court Justices who sat on the Electoral Commission that was convened to resolve the disputed electoral votes in the U.S. presidential election of 1876. Strong voted along with his fellow Republicans, who held the majority on the Commission, to award every disputed vote to Rutherford B. Hayes, the Republican candidate, thus ensuring his presidency.

Strong served on the Supreme Court until December 14, 1880, when he retired despite still being in good health, partly to set an example to several infirm justices who refused to give up their seats. Strong resumed the practice of law and pursued religious causes until his death, at Lake Minnewaska[3] in Ulster County, New York, on August 19, 1895. Following funeral services at the chapel of the Charles Evans Cemetery in Reading, Pennsylvania,[4] he was laid to rest at that cemetery.[5][6] The Historical Society of Berks County has in its collection a few pieces relating to Justice Strong.


  1. Yale Obituary Record
  2. Supreme Court Justices Who Are Phi Beta Kappa Members, Phi Beta Kappa website, accessed Oct 4, 2009
  3. http://lakeminnewaska.org/history.shtml
  4. "Paid Him Last Tribute: Many Washingtonians at the Funeral of Justice Strong". Washington, D.C.: The Morning Times, August 22, 1895, p. 5.
  5. "Justice Strong's Funeral". Phoenix, Arizona: Arizona Republican, August 22, 1895, p. 1.
  6. "Remains of Ex-Justice Strong". Sacramento, California: The Record-Union, August 22, 1895, p. 1.


U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
John Ritter
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Pennsylvania's 9th congressional district

Succeeded by
Glancy Jones
Preceded by
Robert Grier
Chair of the House Elections Committee
Succeeded by
Richard Thompson
Legal offices
Preceded by
Robert Grier
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States
Succeeded by
William Woods
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