Thomas E. Fairchild

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The Honorable

Thomas E. Fairchild
Senior Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
In office
August 31, 1981 – February 12, 2007
Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
In office
Preceded by Luther Merritt Swygert
Succeeded by Walter J. Cummings, Jr.
Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
In office
August 11, 1966 – August 31, 1981
Appointed by Lyndon B. Johnson
Preceded by F. Ryan Duffy
Succeeded by John Louis Coffey
Justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court
In office
January 1, 1957 – August 11, 1966
Preceded by Edward T. Fairchild
Succeeded by Leo B. Hanley
United States Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin
In office
March 20, 1951 – July 8, 1952
President Harry S. Truman
Preceded by Charles H. Cashin
Succeeded by Frank Nikolay
31st Attorney General of Wisconsin
In office
November 12, 1948 – January 1, 1951
Governor Oscar Rennebohm
Preceded by Grover L. Broadfoot
Succeeded by Vernon W. Thomson
Personal details
Thomas Edward Fairchild

(1912-12-25)December 25, 1912
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Died February 12, 2007(2007-02-12) (aged 94)
Madison, Wisconsin
Resting place Lake Prairie Cemetery
Lowell, Indiana
Political party Democratic
  • Eleanor Dahl
  • (died 2005)
Children 4
Mother Helen McCurdy (Edwards) Fairchild
Father Edward T. Fairchild
Alma mater
Profession lawyer, judge

Thomas Edward Fairchild (December 25, 1912 – February 12, 2007) was an American lawyer and judge. He served forty years as a Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. Earlier in his career he was a Justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, United States Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin, and the 31st Attorney General of Wisconsin.

Early life and career

Born on December 25, 1912, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, he was the son of Edward T. Fairchild, who would serve on the Wisconsin Supreme Court from 1930 through 1956, and was chief justice for the last 3 years of his tenure.

Thomas Fairchild graduated from Riverside High School in 1929. He obtained an Artium Baccalaureus degree from Cornell University in 1934, and a Bachelor of Laws in 1938 from the University of Wisconsin Law School.[1]

In 1938, he entered private practice in Portage, Wisconsin, partnering with Daniel H. Grady. In 1941, he was appointed a hearing commissioner for the Office of Price Administration in Chicago, Illinois, and Milwaukee, serving from 1941 to 1945. He returned to private practice in Milwaukee from 1945 to 1948.[1]

Political career

In 1948, he became involved in a project to revitalize the Democratic Party in the state of Wisconsin.[2] At the time, Republicans had dominated state elections for the previous fifty years. That year, Fairchild ran for Attorney General of Wisconsin. The incumbent, Grover L. Broadfoot, was defeated in the Republican primary. He had been appointed to the position to fill the unexpired term of John E. Martin, who had resigned to accept appointment to the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

Attorney General

Fairchild's Republican opponent in the election was Don Martin, who benefited from having the same last name as the previous five-term Attorney General John Martin. Martin, however, did dispel some of that confusion when he was charged with public intoxication for an incident in which he urinated on a bank teller window in downtown Madison in broad daylight.[3] Fairchild went on to win the election, but he was the only Democrat to win state-wide office that year. After the election, the incumbent, Grover Broadfoot, who was only serving on an appointed basis, resigned. This cleared the way for Fairchild to be appointed to begin his term two months early.[3]

As Attorney General, Fairchild was seen as pursuing policy that he believed in despite political consequences. He fought for expansion of civil rights and equal protection under law. Wisconsin did not have segregation laws like those that existed in the south at this time—in fact, Wisconsin had laws prohibiting the denial of equal enjoyment of public facilities—but there were still de facto segregation behaviors that Fairchild sought to challenge in the state. For instance, the situation of the two public pools in Beloit, Wisconsin, where Fairchild brought a suit against the City Manager, A. D. Telfer, for the apparent segregation of those public facilities. Fairchild dismissed the suit after securing sworn testimony from Telfer that African Americans would be welcomed at either public pool.[3]

Fairchild boldly used his authority in other politically sensitive areas as well. He issued an opinion finding that a then-popular Baseball tally card which awarded prizes based on scores was a form of illegal gambling; he asserted the right of the state government to set standards for counties administering benefits funded jointly by the state and federal government, where many counties were currently not meeting the standards; he supported Socialist Milwaukee Mayor Frank Zeidler's rent control rules; he opined that public school release for religious instruction of Catholic students was a violation of the Constitution of Wisconsin. His most controversial decision, however, was his opinion finding that several radio and television programs which gave away prizes to the audience constituted a form of illegal gambling.[3]

Federal office

In 1950, rather than running for re-election as Attorney General, Fairchild chose to challenge incumbent Republican United States Senator Alexander Wiley, who was seeking a third term. He narrowly won the Democratic party's nomination, fending off Milwaukee Mayor Daniel Hoan, labor pick William Sanderson, and former Member of Congress LaVern Dilweg, who also happened to be a famous retired athlete who won three championships with the Green Bay Packers.[3] Fairchild ran on a liberal platform that endorsed Harry Truman's Fair Deal, advocating for expansion of Social Security to supplement or replace medical insurance and for the fair redistribution of income to prevent concentration of wealth in the hands of a small group of elites. He also took an early stand against Wisconsin's junior senator, Joseph McCarthy, who had, that year, begun making accusations of communist infiltration of the United States government. Fairchild said that McCarthy brought "shame to Wisconsin."[3]

Despite his vigorous campaigning, Fairchild was defeated by the incumbent, Alexander Wiley, by about 80,000 votes. Nevertheless, his campaign had been noticed, and, in 1951, he was nominated by President Truman to become United States Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin.[1] His opponent in 1950, Alexander Wiley, wrote a statement endorsing his nomination and he was confirmed by the Senate in March of 1951. He served briefly as a consultant for the Office of Price Stabilization in 1951 before his confirmation as U.S. Attorney.[3]

In 1952 it was a priority of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin to defeat Senator Joseph McCarthy. Several prominent Democrats considered running, including Gaylord Nelson, Jim Doyle, Sr., and Henry S. Reuss. Nelson and Doyle eventually bowed out of the contest in 1951, leaving Reuss, a previously unsuccessful candidate for Milwaukee Mayor and Wisconsin Attorney General. A "Draft Fairchild" movement began among Wisconsin Democrats and, in July 1952, Fairchild bowed to pressure and resigned as U.S. Attorney to enter the U.S. Senate primary. Reuss and Fairchild remained focused through the primary on campaigning against McCarthy, and, after a close race, Fairchild was chosen as the Democratic nominee.[1]

The campaign to defeat McCarthy became a focus of attention from the national Democratic Party, as presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson and U.S. Senator Estes Kefauver visited the state to bolster Fairchild. Fairchild's was one of the first Wisconsin campaigns to receive large contributions from out-of-state and one of the first to feature large scale radio and television advertisement. Though Fairchild was considered soft-spoken, he was deeply critical of McCarthy's behavior in the Senate. He said of McCarthy's tactics: "When we destroy a man's character, we take away from his dignity of soul. We take from him something that money cannot buy, something which may never be regained. When we stop and examine this spectacle, it revolts us." Making up for Fairchild's lack of bombast, McCarthy was dogged by a Democratic "Truth Squad", composed of Gaylord Nelson, Jim Doyle, Sr., and Henry Reuss, as well as Carl W. Thompson, Horace W. Wilkie, Miles McMillan, and Democratic gubernatorial candidate William Proxmire.

Despite diligent campaigning, strong Democratic support, and many Republican crossover votes, Fairchild was defeated by McCarthy. McCarthy went onto his consequential second term, which saw him chair the Senate Government Affairs Committee and reach the height of his power.

Fairchild returned to private law practice, forming a partnership with Floyd Kops and Irv Charne in Milwaukee. During this time, however, he remained active in public affairs and represented several Wisconsin citizens subpoenaed to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee.

Wisconsin Supreme Court

In 1956, his father Edward, who was then Chief Justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, decided that he would retire at the end of his term. Thomas Fairchild decided that he would run for the open seat. In the Spring election, Fairchild won a commanding victory over William H. Dieterich and Clair L. Finch in the primary, with an even larger majority over Dieterich in the general election, taking over 77% of the vote.[4][1] He took office in January 1957, sworn in by his father.[5] He was re-elected without opposition in 1966, but would resign later that year to accept his seat on the United States Court of Appeals.[6]

During his tenure on the Supreme Court, he was chair of the 1960 and 1963 Governor's commissions on constitutional revision.[1]

Federal judicial service

Fairchild was nominated by President Lyndon B. Johnson on July 11, 1966, to a seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit vacated by Judge F. Ryan Duffy. He was confirmed by the United States Senate on August 10, 1966, and received his commission on August 11, 1966. He served as Chief Judge and as a member of the Judicial Conference of the United States from 1975 to 1981. He assumed senior status on August 31, 1981. His service terminated on February 12, 2007, due to his death.[7][6]

Personal life and family

Fairchild's father was Chief Justice Edward T. Fairchild. He met his future wife, Eleanor Dahl, when they were both students at the University of Wisconsin. They were married in 1937 at Lowell, Indiana, where Eleanor had grown up. Eleanor was active in supporting all of her husbands campaigns, but was especially active in the 1952 campaign against Joseph McCarthy. They had four children together.

Fairchild died on February 12, 2007, in Madison, Wisconsin. He was 94 years old.[8][9][6]

Electoral history

Wisconsin Attorney General (1948)

Wisconsin Attorney General Election, 1948[10]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Primary Election, September 21, 1948
Republican Donald J. Martin 154,128 36.75%
Republican William H. Dieterich 104,187 24.84%
Democratic Thomas E. Fairchild 97,435 23.23%
Republican Frank X. Didier 27,316 6.51%
Republican Grover L. Broadfoot (incumbent) 26,572 6.34%
Progressive Michael Essin 6,180 1.47%
Socialist Anna Mae Davis 3,606 0.86%
Total votes 419,424 100.0%
General Election, November 2, 1948
Democratic Thomas E. Fairchild 622,312 50.67% +21.96%
Republican Donald J. Martin 583,298 47.49% -22.47%
Progressive Michael Essin 11,908 0.97%
Socialist Anna Mae Davis 10,641 0.87% -0.46%
Total votes 1,228,159 100.0% +25.88%
Democratic gain from Republican

U.S. Senate (1950, 1952)

United States Senate Election in Wisconsin, 1950[11]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Primary Election, September 19, 1950
Republican Alexander Wiley (incumbent) 308,536 54.62%
Republican Edward J. Finan 87,929 15.57%
Democratic Thomas E. Fairchild 58,399 10.34%
Democratic Daniel Hoan 44,423 7.86%
Democratic William Sanderson 41,961 7.43%
Democratic LaVern Dilweg 21,609 3.83%
Socialist Edwin W. Knappe 2,002 0.35%
Total votes 564,859 100.0%
General Election, November 7, 1950
Republican Alexander Wiley (incumbent) 595,283 53.34%
Democratic Thomas E. Fairchild 515,539 46.19%
Socialist Edwin W. Knappe 3,972 0.36%
Independent Perry J. Stearns 644 0.06%
Socialist Workers James E. Boulton 332 0.03%
Socialist Labor Artemio Cozzini 307 0.03%
Total votes 1,116,077 100.0%
Republican hold
United States Senate Election in Wisconsin, 1952[12]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Primary Election, September 9, 1952
Republican Joseph McCarthy (incumbent) 515,481 54.21%
Republican Leonard Schmitt 213,701 22.47%
Democratic Thomas E. Fairchild 97,321 10.34%
Democratic Henry S. Reuss 94,379 9.92%
Republican Andrew G. Jacobson 11,639 7.43%
Republican Perry J. Stearns 10,353 3.83%
Republican Edmund Kerwer 4,078 0.35%
Republican Edward J. Finan 4,021 0.35%
Total votes 950,973 100.0%
General Election, November 4, 1952
Republican Joseph McCarthy (incumbent) 870,444 54.23% +0.89%
Democratic Thomas E. Fairchild 731,402 45.57% -0.63%
Independent Alfred L. Easterday 1,879 0.12%
Socialist Workers James E. Boulton 1,442 0.09% +0.06%
Total votes 1,605,167 100.0% +43.82%
Republican hold

Wisconsin Supreme Court (1956, 1966)

Wisconsin Supreme Court Election, 1956[4]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Primary Election, March 6, 1956
Independent Thomas E. Fairchild 250,442 71.77%
Independent William H. Dieterich 68,288 19.57%
Independent Clair L. Finch 30,244 8.67%
Total votes 348,974 100.0%
General Election, April 3, 1956
Independent Thomas E. Fairchild 574,429 77.59%
Independent William H. Dieterich 165,953 22.41%
Total votes 740,382 100.0%
Wisconsin Supreme Court Election, 1966[13]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
General Election, April 5, 1966
Independent Thomas E. Fairchild (incumbent) 564,132 100.0%
Total votes 564,132 100.0%


  1. ^ a b c d e f Theobald, H. Rupert, ed. (1966). "Biographies and pictures". The Wisconsin Blue Book, 1966 (Report). State of Wisconsin. p. 8. Retrieved November 17, 2019.
  2. ^ "Thomas E. Fairchild (1912-2007)". Courts of Wisconsin. Retrieved November 17, 2019.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g "All in the Family: A Legacy of Public Service and Engagement—Edward and Thomas Fairchild" (PDF). pp. 53–58. Retrieved November 17, 2019.
  4. ^ a b Toepel, M.G.; Kuehn, Hazel L., eds. (1958). "Parties and elections: the judicial and nonpartisan elections". The Wisconsin Blue Book, 1958 (Report). State of Wisconsin. pp. 780–781. Retrieved November 17, 2019.
  5. ^ Edward T. Fairchild (1872–1965),; accessed December 27, 2017.
  6. ^ a b c "Fairchild, Thomas Edward - Federal Judicial Center".
  7. ^ Fairchild, Thomas E. 1912,; retrieved January 22, 2016.
  8. ^; retrieved January 22, 2016.
  9. ^ Sander, Libby (2007) Thomas Fairchild, 94, Dies; Tried to Unseat McCarthy, New York Times, February 15, 2007.
  10. ^ Ohm, Howard F.; Kuehn, Hazel L., eds. (1950). "Parties and elections". The Wisconsin Blue Book, 1950 (Report). pp. 651, 753. Retrieved November 17, 2019.
  11. ^ Toepel, M.G.; Kuehn, Hazel L., eds. (1952). "Parties and elections". The Wisconsin Blue Book, 1952 (Report). pp. 674, 744. Retrieved November 17, 2019.
  12. ^ Toepel, M.G.; Kuehn, Hazel L., eds. (1954). "Parties and elections". The Wisconsin Blue Book, 1954 (Report). pp. 656, 757. Retrieved November 17, 2019.
  13. ^ Theobald, H. Rupert; Robbins, Patricia V., eds. (1968). "Elections in Wisconsin". The Wisconsin Blue Book, 1968 (Report). p. 757. Retrieved November 17, 2019.

External links

Legal offices
Preceded by
Grover L. Broadfoot
Attorney General of Wisconsin
Succeeded by
Vernon Wallace Thomson
Preceded by
Charles H. Cashin
United States Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin
Succeeded by
Frank Nikolay
Preceded by
Edward T. Fairchild
Justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court
Succeeded by
Leo B. Hanley
Preceded by
F. Ryan Duffy
Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
Succeeded by
John Louis Coffey
Preceded by
Luther Merritt Swygert
Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
Succeeded by
Walter J. Cummings Jr.
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