In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson nominated Louis Brandeis to the Supreme Court.  His nomination was bitterly contested.  Justice William O. Douglas had this to say:  “Brandeis was dangerous because he was incorruptible… “.1

Brandeis became one of the most influential figures ever to serve on the High Court.  He upheld freedom of speech and the right to privacy.

When Brandeis was in law school his eyesight began to fail as a result of the poor visibility under gaslight.  The school doctors advised him to give up school entirely, but he found another alternative: he would pay other students to read the text books aloud, while he tried to memorize the legal principles.  Despite the difficulties, he graduated as valedictorian.2

Lord Acton is quoted as saying:  “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”3  What is so different about Louis Brandeis is that power never went to his head.  He remained a simple and honest man throughout his life.

Brandeis’ humility and incorruptibility are character traits we should all aspire to.

by Patrick Gaffney

by Patrick Gaffney

1 Douglas, William O.  “Louis Brandeis:  Dangerous because incorruptible”.  The New York Times. July 5, 1964.

2 Wikipedia:  Louis Brandeis.

3 Acton Institute.  Lord Acton Quote Archive.  Retrieved from: