Henry Billings Brown (1891-1906)
Henry Billings Brown lived from 1836 to 1913.
Brown was born in South Lee, Massachusetts to a New England merchant family. He entered Yale College at the age of sixteen, where he was a member of the Alpha Delta Phi fraternity. After graduating from Yale in 1856, Brown began studying law with Judge John H. Brockway of Ellington, Connecticut. He then returned to Yale, spending one year studying law at Yale Law School, followed by a single semester at Harvard Law School.
Brown was admitted to the Michigan bar in 1860. He began practicing law in Detroit, where he specialized in admiralty law. Between 1861 and 1868, in addition to his private practice, Brown served as Deputy U.S. Marshal, assistant U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan, and judge of the Wayne County Circuit Court in Detroit. In 1875, Brown was nominated to a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan by President Ulysses Grant.
Appointed to the Supreme Court
President Benjamin Harrison appointed Brown to the Supreme Court of the United States on December 23, 1890. During his time on the bench, Brown authored over 450 majority opinions. He is best known, however, for his opinion in Plessy v. Ferguson. Brown also authored the opinion of the Court in Delima v. Bidwell, one of the Insular cases, which considered the status of territories acquired by the U.S. in the Spanish-American war of 1898.
Brown died of heart disease on September 4, 1913 in Bronxville, New York. He is buried next to his first wife in Elmwood Cemetery in Detroit.
Delima v. Bidwell (1901)