Oliver Wendell Holmes 1841-1935
Great Quotes from a Great Man
A man may fulfill the object of his existence by asking a question he cannot answer, and attempting a task he cannot achieve.
Every calling is great when greatly pursued.
Every idea is an incitement... Eloquence may set fire to reason.
Have the courage to act instead of react.
He has half the deed done who has made a beginning.
If there is any principle of the Constitution that more imperatively calls for attachment than any other it is the principle of free thought, not free thought for those who agree with us but freedom for the thought that we hate.
It's faith in something and enthusiasm for something that makes a life worth living.
We've Got History
Our school is named for Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., one of the most famous and influential judges on the Supreme Court. Holmes served for 30 years until 1932.
He was known as The Great Dissenter because of his independent and unpredictable rulings, mostly disagreeing with the majority in decisions based on his great intellect and legal reason rather than politics.
He was born in the upper classes as the son of a prominent doctor and a politically active mother, he lived a life of privilege but did not let it define him or limit his experiences. He grew up always challenged intellectually in his household with high expectations. They boy started each day at the breakfast table where a bright saying won the child a second helping of marmalade.
As a youth, he fell in love with the daughter of his tutor, Fanny Dixwell, and later married her. He attended Harvard, the most elite university where he became a star student. Then in 1861, Fort Sumter was fired upon and the Civil War began. President Abraham Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers. Young Holmes, 20 years old and about to graduate from college, fought in the war with great bravery and distinction.
After one disastrous battle, Lieutenant Holmes, wounded with a bullet through his chest, was placed in a boat with dying men and ferried through the darkness to the Maryland shore. His wound was serious, but he recovered back in his Boston home, and went back to the front to fight again.
At one of the most famous and bloody battles in the Civil War, in Antietam, a bullet pierced his neck and he was in critical condition. His father, Dr. Holmes, set out through the war-torn nation to search for his wounded son. It took him days through dangerous terrain, but he found Oliver and brought him home to get the best possible medical care. The brave Oliver was dedicated to the cause of preserving the United States of America and keeping it free of the evil of human slavery. Once he healed from the second near-fatal wound, he returned to fight again but the young officer became wounded a third time, a bullet cut through leg tendons. This time he did not heal as fast and retired from Army service.
After earning his law degree from Harvard he took time off before starting his career to climb mountains in Europe. While practicing law he quickly became prominent and was appointed to judgeships until becoming nominated to the highest court in the nation, the Supreme Court.
As Justice Holmes grew old he became a figure for legend. Eager young students of history and the law, with no possibility of an introduction to him, made pilgrimages to Washington merely that they might remember at least the sight of him on the bench of the Supreme Court. To intellectuals and young attorneys, he was a superstar and remains one of the most cited attorneys in America.
During his service to his country on the court he supported free speech and economic regulation, to keep big banks and business from unfair advantage. He is buried with those who fought for their country in Arlington National Cemetery in the nation's capitol.