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Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes?

Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., famously nicknamed The Great Dissenter, was a key judicial figure in United States history known for his defense of free speech. Born in 1841, a tumultuous time in our country’s history, he took on many different roles throughout his life.

He grew up in Boston, attending private school and, eventually, Harvard College. At the outbreak of the Civil War, he was unsure if he would even finish the academic year. Being a man of patriotic duty, he enlisted as a private in the 4th Battalion of Infantry. After graduating from Harvard, he was offered a commission as a first lieutenant. He was wounded three times during his service.

Holmes left the army with the rank of Captain. While he didn’t find much value in war, he did remark that his time in the army taught him “at the outset that life is a profound and passionate thing.”

He later joined the Massachusetts Supreme Court, eventually becoming Chief Justice,
and later was appointed as an associate justice of the United States Supreme Court.

He published his original philosophy The Common Law, which was groundbreaking at the time, and became known as The Great Dissenter due to his eloquently-written defenses of the First Amendment, which have gone on to be used in multiple court arguments since.

Holmes served as a United States Supreme Court Justice until he was 90 years old. He died in 1935 in Washington, DC. Based on his life, we are honoring his journey in our donor club, outlined in this pamphlet.

What Does Speech First Do?

Speech First is a membership association of students, parents, faculty, alumni, and concerned citizens who’ve had enough of the toxic censorship culture on college campuses and who want to fight back.
Our nationwide community of free speech supporters helps students whose First Amendment rights are threatened. We protect students’ free-speech rights on campus through advocacy, litigation, and education.

By restoring freedom of speech on college campuses, we help to restore an academic
atmosphere where students are exposed to different and challenging ideas and emerge stronger, smarter, and more resilient.

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