Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks at the Swearing In of Erwin N. Griswold as Solicitor General of the United States.

October 23, 1967

Dean Griswold and Mrs. Griswold, Mr. Chief Justice, other members of the Court, Attorney General Clark, ladies and gentlemen:

Today the people of the United States are a very fortunate client. For today they retain one of the Nation's foremost lawyers.

In Dean Erwin N. Griswold, the people have gained a brilliant advocate of their liberty, and a compassionate champion of their rights. A lawyer as well as a humanist, Dean Griswold appreciates the importance of law both to man's civilization and to man's spirit.

He comes to this office when the law and its justice are profoundly affecting the daily lives of all of us.

We are living through an era of revolution in human rights, and historic reversal of the old ways of injustice and intolerance. It is occurring in our classrooms, in our shops and our homes, and along our streets and our highways. But the abiding fact is that it is also taking place in the courts, the legislatures, and the voting booths of America. And to America's lasting credit, this is a revolution of law, and within the law.

This weekend, in a courtroom in Meridian, Mississippi, we saw another instance of this continuing revolution. Five years ago, another event in Mississippi--the integration of the university--caused President John F. Kennedy to tell the Nation:

"Americans are free... to disagree with the law but not to disobey it .... If this country should ever reach the point where any man or group of men by force or threat of force could long defy the commands of our court and our Constitution, then no law would stand free from doubt, no judge would be sure of his writ, and no citizen would be safe from his neighbors."

I am charging the Attorney General and the Department of Justice, again today, to be sure to see that all Americans are guaranteed justice, not only to those who abide by the law, but justice to those who seek to thwart the law.

In every triumph of justice all good people are the victors. The responsibility of seeking and the challenge of winning these triumphs are America's charge to its Solicitor General.

Dean Griswold is not a newcomer to this office. He was a young attorney from Cleveland when he joined the Solicitor General's office back in 1929. He remained 5 years until he was appointed to the Harvard law faculty. His rapid rise to dean of the law school is impressive testimony to the quality of the man--and to the wisdom of the institution.

His vision is broad; his compassion abundant; his dedication great--to the spirit as well as the letter of the law. He has that special quality of tempering scholarly interpretation of the law with charm and good humor.

His humor may be tested in his new office. A former Solicitor General, the late Justice Robert H. Jackson, said he used to make three arguments in every case he pleaded before the Supreme Court:

"First came the one I planned. Second was the one actually presented. The third was the utterly devastating argument that I thought of after going to bed that night."

Dean Griswold, in the days ahead, your clients the people of America--know you will not have many sleepless nights thinking of what should have been said.

We are all very grateful for your readiness to come here and serve your country in this most important assignment. We all share the pride and the happiness of your gracious wife, Harriet, and your family. We all know that you will add a brilliant chapter to your career, to your office, and to our fortunes.

Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 12:20 p.m. in the Cabinet Room at the White House. In his opening words he referred to Dean Erwin N. Griswold and Mrs. Griswold, Chief Justice Earl Warren, who administered the oath of office, and Attorney General Ramsey Clark.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks at the Swearing In of Erwin N. Griswold as Solicitor General of the United States. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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