Henry Billings Brown was born in South Lee, Massachusetts, on March 2, 1836. Brown expired in Bronxville, Ny, on September 4, 1913. He was raised by Puritan parents who, though without much formal schooling themselves, stressed the need for instruction in their own son’s life. Brown attended Yale College, graduating in 1856. He studied law in Ellington, Connecticut, before pursuing his proper legal training at additional studies at the Yale and Harvard law schools. In 1859, in the age of 23, Brown moved to Detroit and received admission to the Michigan bar. Building a completely independent practice, he developed a specialty in maritime law.
Brown was almost immediately made to the primary in a number of public places. In the very first year of his private practice, Brown was named to the post of Deputy United States Marshal for the city of Detroit. 3 years after, he graduated to the job of Assistant United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan. In 1875, President Ulysses S. Grant named Brown to the United States District Court for Eastern Michigan. He served with this bench for 14 years.
The Senate affirmed Brown’s nomination a week after. The composer of numerous determinations, Brown is recalled for authoring the majority opinion in the landmark civil rights case Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896. In his opinion, Brown claimed the acknowledgement of racial difference didn’t always break Constitutional principle. As long as equal facilities and services were accessible to all citizens, the “commingling of both races” need not be applied. Brown’s defense of “different but equal” associations legitimized the Jim Crow system in the American South, which segregated schools, eateries, and areas according to race. The Supreme Court overturned Plessy in the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision, which left state-sponsored segregation indefensible on constitutional reasons. Brown retired in the Supreme Court on May 28, 1906. He perished in Bronxville, Ny, on September 4, 1913, in the age of 77.