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Published on: Monday, July 8, 2024 read more ...

Warren Earl Burger

Photo of the headstone of Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger and his wife, Elvera Stromberg Burger

Section 5, Grave 7015-2

Warren Burger, the 15th chief justice of the United States, served on the Supreme Court for 17 years. Born in 1907 to a working-class family in Saint Paul, Minnesota, Burger supported himself by selling life insurance while going to night school at the University of Minnesota. After earning his law degree from the St. Paul College of Law in 1931, he established a private practice in the Twin Cities area. He also became active in Minnesota's Republican Party. In 1953, Burger moved to Washington, D.C. to serve as Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department's Civil Division. Two years later, President Dwight D. Eisenhower nominated him to the U.S. Court of Appeals, where he became known as a conservative "law and order" judge. 

President Richard M. Nixon appointed Burger as chief justice of the Supreme Court in 1969. During Burger's tenure, he authored more than 250 decisions and oversaw landmark cases pertaining to capital punishment, school desegregation, abortion and criminal justice procedure. However, he is perhaps best known for authoring the unanimous opinion in United States v. Nixon (1974), which required President Nixon to surrender the White House tape recordings and papers that had been subpoenaed for use in his impeachment trial. Nixon resigned 16 days after the Court issued its decision. 

Burger retired in 1986, in order to chair the Commission on the Bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution. He passed away on June 25, 1995, at the age of 87.