Chief Justice Warren Burger is a history buff, and he gave a bit of a history lesson yesterday to those clustered around a shrouded statue next to the U.S. Courthouse.
The statue, which Burger helped unveil, is that of John Marshall, the Virginia-born fourth chief justice of the United States, who served from 1801 to 1835 and nailed down the role of the high court as the interpreter of the Constitution.
The bronze statue is a copy of one that long stood at the Capitol and now is in the grand lobby of the Supreme Court building. It depicts a seated and relaxed Marshall. The newly unveiled copy was erected at a cost of $90,000 by the federally sponsored Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corporation (PADC). It is the centerpiece of John Marshall Park, which replaced the former rather tawdry John Marshall Place, a block-long extension of Fourth Street north of Pennsylvania Avenue.
Henry A. Berliner Jr., chairman of PADC, identified the original sculptor: William Wetmore Story, whose work was done in 1883. That gave Burger the opening to note that sculptor Story was the son of Associate Justice Joseph Story, who served on the high court with Marshall from 1811 onward and survived him by a decade. Story made his own judicial mark with an opinion establishing the supremacy of the federal court system over state judiciaries.
Nine descendants of Chief Justice Marshall attended yesterday's ceremony, including retired Marine Brig. Gen. St. Julien Marshall, the jurist's great-great grandson, pictured above, at left, with Chief Justice Burger. Burger's wife, Elvera, made one of her rare public appearances with the justice at the ceremony.
Burger said that having some recognition of Marshall outside the U.S. Courthouse was a desire often expressed by the late Chief Judge E. Barrett Prettyman of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District, who died in 1971 after 26 years on the bench. Burger, who served with Prettyman, said he shared the dream now come true.