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Former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice and U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Thomas E. Fairchild died Monday, Feb. 12 in Madison.

Madison, Wisconsin - February 14, 2007

Thomas E. Fairchild

Former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice and U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Thomas E. Fairchild died Monday, Feb. 12 in Madison. He was 94.

Fairchild, who served on the state's High Court from 1957-1966, will be remembered as a great jurist and a great person with a good sense of humor, said Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Shirley S. Abrahamson.

"He was serious and well-respected as a jurist, but he could quickly lighten the most serious of moments," Abrahamson said.

Fairchild was universally respected, said former Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan Heffernan, who considered Fairchild a good friend and strong supporter.

"He was a good listener, good writer and a respected legal scholar," Heffernan said.

Fairchild was elected to the Wisconsin Supreme Court in 1956 and served until 1966, when he was appointed by President Lyndon B. Johnson to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit. He served as chief judge for the 7th Circuit from 1975 to 1981.

Fairchild helped bring significant facts to public light during the McCarthy era, Heffernan said.

In 1952, Fairchild unsuccessfully challenged U.S. Sen. Joseph McCarthy, and he later represented clients before the U.S. House Un-American Activities Committee.

Fairchild's legal career began in Portage, where he practiced law from 1938 to 1942. But much of his life was dedicated to public service at the state and federal level.

From 1942 to 1945 he was an attorney with the U.S. Office of Price Administration. In that post, he dealt with consumer rationing during World War II. He returned to private practice in Milwaukee during the following three years before becoming more active in Democratic politics.

Fairchild was elected attorney general in 1948, when he joined others working to revitalize the state Democratic Party. His 1950 U.S. Senate bid against Alexander Wiley was hampered by his unpopular decision at attorney general to outlaw "Stop the Music," a radio show awarding big prizes, however.

In 1951, President Harry S. Truman appointed Fairchild as U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin, but he resigned to challenge McCarthy before returning to private practice in Milwaukee.

In 1956, Fairchild and other members of the Milwaukee Bar Association appeared as counsel for alleged communists subpoenaed before the House Un-American Activities Committee.

Heffernan also said Fairchild had a way of finding humor in even the most serious of cases.

Fairchild often kept a box of limericks nearby to share with friends. But Chief Justice Abrahamson said she discovered they weren't all appropriate for public consumption when she thought of borrowing one for a speech.

Fairchild was born on Christmas 1912 in Milwaukee. After studying at Deep Springs College in California, Princeton University and Cornell University, he received his A.B. from Cornell in 1934 and his L.L.B. from the University of Wisconsin Law School in 1938.

For more information contact:
Tom Sheehan
Court Information Officer
(608) 261-6640

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