Saddened to hear of the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, I’m reminded of a few stories of mine related to the Supreme Court. As a friend says, “brag, brag, blah, blah”. I believe sharing our stories is an important part of life.
When I attended Scattergood Friends School, a Quaker college preparatory school in rural Iowa, the Senior class would travel to Washington, DC, and New York City to learn about our Federal government, and the United Nations.
Our class was able to get into the Court to hear the rulings. I remember we were told over and over again that we needed to be absolutely quiet. It was definitely an impressive occasion.
I took my 35 mm camera on the trip. I had a couple of rolls of black and white film, each of which had room for 36 exposures. So I had to be careful about how many photos I took. I took a couple of photos of the Supreme Court. When I returned to Scattergood, I couldn’t wait to develop the negatives and print the photos on paper. As this will indicate, I was just beginning to learn how to work in a darkroom. A teacher had given me about a 10 minute lesson. It became obvious that wasn’t enough, when I ended up scratching the negatives.
I became eighteen years of age in 1969, during the Vietnam War. I was a Senior at Scattergood at the time. During the Senior trip mentioned above, one thing I did while in Washington was visit the Central Coordinating Committee for Conscientious Objectors. I was struggling to decide whether to apply for conscientious objector status. In the end, I decided that I could not participate even to that extent, and decided to be a draft resister. For more about that, see Fifty Years Ago, and Richmond Declaration on the Draft.
I expected to be arrested for that, as happened to many Quakers, whose example helped me make my own decision.
At the time I turned in my draft cards, men/boys were assigned a lottery number. Men with the number 1 were sent induction notices first, then 2, 3, etc. My number was 35 which meant I was sent an induction notice. I expected to be arrested when I did not appear at the induction center. But I was not.
The reason I was not arrested was because of a decision of the US Supreme Court. During the year my lottery number came up, there was a brief period when no one was being inducted into the armed forces. During that interval, another draft resister was arrested. He said he should not have been arrested, because his lottery number came up during this moratorium period. The Supreme Court agreed. That applied to my situation. The Supreme Court saved me from arrest, for which I was and am very grateful.
My other connection to the Court were the many photos I took of the building. For a number of years I was on the General Committee of the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL). Quakers from all over the country would attend the FCNL annual meetings, which were held in Washington, DC. One reason I looked forward to those trips were the opportunities to take photos there.