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OGC Key Personnel Archive - 1939-1940

Former General Counsel Fowler V. Harper

Fowler V. Harper

General Counsel, Social Security Board, 1939-1940

University of Michigan Law School
Ohio University College of Law
University of Iowa 1925

Appointed by President Franklin Roosevelt
Served under Paul Vories McNutt


Fowler Harper served as General Counsel to the Social Security Board from 1939 to 1940. Harper is most well known for his role in the landmark Supreme Court decision Griswold v. Connecticut. Harper formulated an argument asking the justices to strike down a Connecticut statute, which forbade the use, sale, and distribution of contraceptives. Today Griswold is widely recognized as the case that legalized the use of birth control and paved the way for the nearly unanimous acceptance of contraception that now exists in this country.

Harper was also a prominent academic and author of many legal publications. He spent the final seventeen years of his life as a professor at Yale Law School. Like many legal scholars of his generation, Harper was a legal realist. He looked to the social sciences, rather than more tradition sources, to explain the development of the law. He devoted over one half of his 1952 casebook, Problems of the Family, to social science studies rather than cases. Harper is the author of forty-nine law review articles, forty book reviews, and two leading treatises on the law of torts.

In addition to his teaching and writing, Harper was politically active. Harper was a delegate to the 1940 and 1944 Democratic Party National Conventions, a leading member of the National Lawyer's Guild and an undaunted and outspoken critic of Senator McCarthy. He filed an amicus brief in 1954 on behalf of fourteen California communists convicted of violating the Smith Act.Yale Law School established a lecture series in 1965 named after Harper which recognizes individuals who have made a distinguished contribution to the public life of the nation. Former Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala was a recent participant in the series.

Presented for archival purposes. Current as of November 25, 2002.


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Content last reviewed on June 30, 2014