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A Man of Letters

Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. poses with John Knox (left) and James McReynolds (right)

In a photo taken by Alger Hiss '29 in 1930, Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. 1866 poses with John Knox LL.M. '36, whose experience clerking for Supreme Court Justice James McReynolds (right) is detailed in "The Forgotten Memoir of John Knox."

John Knox LL.M. '36 was not short on confidence. "My name will survive as long as man survives," he wrote while an HLS student, "because I am writing the greatest diary that has ever been written." So he likely would have been chagrined at the title of a recent book that includes some of those reflections: "The Forgotten Memoir of John Knox: A Year in the Life of a Supreme Court Clerk in FDR's Washington" (University of Chicago Press, 2002). The book, edited by Dennis Hutchinson and David Garrow, chronicles Knox's stint as a clerk to Supreme Court Justice James McReynolds during the 1936 term and offers intimate details of the political and social dynamics of the period. Knox, who died in 1997, enjoyed writing letters too, corresponding with other Supreme Court justices and Helen Keller, Admiral Bird and Kaiser Wilhelm II, and once wrote to all 96 U.S. senators to ask for a job. Some of his work is now memorialized in the Harvard Law library holdings, where, come to think of it, it just may survive as long as man survives.

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