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Bust of Blackstone, Supreme Court Chief Justice Tom Parker

When you think of the Supreme Court Law Library, you probably picture lawyers, law students and court staff browsing law books and online search engines. That’s largely correct, but the Alabama Supreme Court Library adds an unusual feature: a valuable and meaningful art object of historical legal significance.

The addition is a valuable bust of Sir William Blackstone, the English lawyer who wrote ‘Blackstone’s Commentaries’, which were vital during the founding of our nation and remain influential today.

Tom Parker, Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, an avid student of Blackstone and collector of historical Blackstone books, acquired a bust of Blackstone at auction. He has it on display in the Chief Justice’s Conference Room, but it will be moved on loan to the Supreme Court Law Library after Parker’s term ends in January 2025. The library is in the process of refinishing a suitable display case.

Blackstonebust2 Alabama News

Blackstone bust. Chief Justice Tom Parker

William Blackstone is considered a pillar of British and American law. Although he lived from 1723 to 1780, his influence continues today. His seminal work was ‘Commentaries on the Laws of England’, commonly known as ‘Blackstone’s Commentaries’.

Those comments influenced American founders Alexander Hamilton, John Marshall, John Jay, John Adams and later Abraham Lincoln. To this day, the comments are cited in court decisions, including those of the Supreme Courts of Alabama and the US.

The influence of Blackstone’s comments on the development of American law cannot be overstated.

English law professor William Searle Holdsworth put it this way: “If the commentaries had not been written when they were written, I think it is very doubtful that the United States and other English-speaking countries would have adopted the common law so universally.”

Parker’s bust of Blackstone was sculpted by Felix de Weldon, originally from Vienna and later an American citizen. He became one of the leading sculptors of famous people and events.

Think:

The iconic sculpture that became the Iwo Jima Memorial

John Marshall

George Wythe

Bust of Harry Truman

Bust of John F. Kennedy

Statue of World War I hero Sergeant York

Statue of General Pershing

Parker’s copy of the Weldon’s Blackstone bust was owned by Major General Arthur Briggs Hanson. During World War II, Hanson served in the Marines and received a Bronze Star. After the war he continued to serve in the reserves as a JAG officer. He had a law practice in Washington, D.C. and argued two cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. He wrote ‘Hanson on Defamation and Related Torts’.

The bust of an important founder of American law remains in legal hands.

“No human act can be considered law unless it is in accordance with the law of God.” -Sir William Blackstone

Jim ‘Zig’ Zeigler’s beat is the colorful and positive of Alabama. He writes about people, places, events, groups and prominent deaths in Alabama. He is a former Alabama Public Service Commissioner and state auditor. You can reach him for comment at [email protected].

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