About Joseph Lamar

Chronology of Joseph Rucker Lamar Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States

Compiled by Erick D. Montgomery, Executive Director, Historic Augusta, Inc.
Address: P. O. Box 37 Augusta, Georgia 30903
(revised 1/28/03)

1850 – James Sanford Lamar, of Columbus, Georgia, completes law studies and passes the bar. Instead of practicing law he becomes a pastor in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and accepts a pastorate in Augusta, Georgia.

1857 – Joseph Rucker Lamar, oldest son of the Reverend James Sanford Lamar and Mary (Rucker) Lamar, is born on October 14th in Ruckersville, Elbert County, Georgia, at “Cedar Grove,” one of the plantations owned by his maternal grandfather, Squire Joseph Rucker.

1859 – Philip J. Lamar, second son of the Reverend James S. and Mary (Rucker) Lamar is born in Augusta on March 15th.

1860 – The family of the Reverend James Sanford Lamar moves to the new Manse of the Christian Church in Augusta at 51 McIntosh Street. The house had been constructed by William H. Salisbury and was purchased by Mrs. Emily Thomas Tubman, a benevolent church member. The house is next door to the Presbyterian Manse, occupied by the family of the Reverend Doctor Joseph Ruggles Wilson.

1860 – Mary Lamar, only daughter of the Reverend James S. and Mary (Rucker) Lamar, is born in the Manse at 51 McIntosh Street December 11th.

1864 – Mary (Rucker) Lamar dies in the Augusta Manse on January 27th. The family is displaced because of the Civil War, and refugees to Elbert County.

1865 – The Reverend James S. Lamar marries his second wife, Sallie May Ford, daughter of Dr. Lewis DeSaussure Ford, Dean of the Medical College of Georgia. The Fords live in the “Mansion House,” which is on the adjacent lot facing Greene Street at the southwest corner of McIntosh (Seventh) Street.

1866 – It is about this time that Professor Joseph Tyrone Derry starts his classical school for boys in Augusta. Among his students were Joseph Rucker Lamar and Philip J. Lamar, as well as Thomas Woodrow Wilson. The three boys become playmates and schoolmates. They organize a debating society and belong to the same baseball team, known as the “Lightfoots.”

1870 – Joseph and Philip Lamar are sent to the Martin Institute in Jefferson, Georgia to attend school under Professor John T. Glenn. The following year, the Lamar brothers return to Augusta and enter the Academy of Richmond County. Afterward, they attend the Penn Lucy School near Baltimore, Maryland under Colonel Richard Malcolm Johnston.

1874 – Lamar enters the University of Georgia, Athens. The following year he becomes ill and his father accepts a call to a pastorate in Louisville, KY. The two Lamar brothers finish their studies at James’ alma mater, Bethany College, outside Wheeling, West Virginia. While at Bethany Joseph is active in the debating society, pitches for the college baseball team, is a prompter and sometime actor in college theatricals, and becomes a member of a Greek letter fraternity.

1875 – The house at 51 McIntosh Street is sold by the Christian Church to Ferdinand Bowdre Phinizy for use as his residence. The Phinizy Family retains ownership of the property until the 1930s.

1877 – After two years at Bethany Lamar receives his BA degree. He enrolls in Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia to study law. In December, Lamar drops out of college at Christmas and returns to Augusta, Georgia where he reads law in the office of Henry Clay Foster.

1878 – Lamar returns to Bethany to teach Latin for a year. He is admitted to the Georgia Bar later that year.

1879 – On January 30th Lamar marries Clarinda Huntington Pendleton (1856-1943), daughter of the President of Bethany College, the Rev. William K. Pendleton.

1880 – Newlyweds Joseph and Clarinda Lamar move to Augusta, Georgia where Lamar accepts a partnership with Henry Clay Foster. They live at 1209 Greene Street with their three children, Philip Rucker Lamar (1880-1938), William Pendleton Lamar (1882-1958) and Mary Lamar (1885-1885). Joseph Lamar practices law in Augusta until 1910.

1886 – at the age of 28 Lamar runs for the Georgia State legislature and is elected against a strong opposition. As a representative of Richmond County he shows particular interest in legal reform and writes legislation resulting in the more efficient administration of justice in the state.

1880s-1910s – Lamar serves as a member of the board of Richmond Academy, a trustee of the Medical College of Georgia, president of the Library Association, president of the city’s first lecture bureau, a trustee of his father’s former church, a director of the Orphan Asylum and the Young Men’s Christian Association. Lamar becomes the first president of the Young Men’s Business League.

1893 – The governor appoints Lamar to a commission to codify the laws of Georgia. As part of his research, Lamar travels to London to examine and copy the voluminous data on Georgia’s legal institutions during the Colonial era. He later claims to be one of only two men who had examined the colonial records of Georgia “page by page.”

1898 – Georgia Supreme Court appoints Lamar to the board examining bar applicants. He serves as board chairman for five years.

1902 – On December 31st Governor Joseph M. Terrell appoints Lamar to fill out a term on the state supreme court. He takes his seat in January, 1903.

1904 – Joseph runs for reelection to the court and wins easily.

1905 – In April a combination of overwork, ill health, homesickness and financial considerations lead Lamar to resign from the court. He returns to Augusta and private law practice. He and his wife remodel the old Smelser House at 1006 Johns Road in Summerville, making it their main residence.

1907 – Lamar successfully appeals the decision of the Georgia State Supreme Court on the Georgia Railroad Tax Case. Overruling the state Supreme Court, the U.S. Supreme Court accepts Lamar’s argument that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment could be applied in a dispute over taxing an out-of-state corporation.

1908 – President William Howard Taft visits Augusta for a post campaign vacation and plays golf with Lamar.

1910 – President Taft appoints Lamar to the U.S. Supreme Court to replace the retiring William H. Moody. Unanimous Senate approval leads to his confirmation, making him only the sixth justice ever appointed by a president of another political party.

1911 – Lamar’s best-known opinion is rendered in the controversial case of Gompers v. Bucks Stove and Range Company. In it he discusses how to punish individuals who show contempt of court by obstruction of the court’s judicial functions, disturbing the peace in the courtroom, or generally being disobedient.

1914 – Lamar performs a service for his old schoolmate Woodrow Wilson, who had been elected president in 1912. He joins the commission that successfully negotiates a peaceful settlement of a dispute with Mexico.

1915 – During his four active years on the Court Lamar writes 113 opinions, with only eight being dissenting opinions. Lamar’s most far-reaching decision is United States v. Midwest Oil Company in which he upholds the president’s right to withdraw 3 million acres of public lands containing oil deposits from private exploitation in order to preserve oil supplies for the Navy.

1915 – In September, Lamar suffers a paralytic stroke that prevents him from taking his seat in the new term of the Court

1916 – January 2nd, Lamar dies at his home in Washington, D.C., only two months past his fifty-eighth birthday. He is buried in Augusta’s Summerville Cemetery.

1916 – Mrs. Clarinda Pendleton Lamar moves to Atlanta to live with her two bachelor sons. She dies there in 1943, and is buried in Augusta’s Summerville Cemetery.