Vol. 80, No. 3, March 2007
Madison attorney John Skilton received the above photo from Judge Fairchild when he clerked for him in 1970. The Dane County Bar Association (DCBA) will present a 16 by 20 framed photo to the Wisconsin Supreme Court on April 11 on behalf of all Wisconsin lawyers. Framed photographs also will be presented to the chief judge of each district in Wisconsin. Skilton will emcee a memorial ceremony at the Seventh Circuit Bar Association meeting on May 8.
Former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice and U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Thomas E. Fairchild died on Feb. 12. He was 94.
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.
In 1951, President Harry S. Truman appointed Fairchild U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin, but he resigned in 1952 to unsuccessfully challenge U.S. Sen. Joseph McCarthy. He returned to private practice in Milwaukee, and in 1956, he and other members of the Milwaukee Bar Association appeared as counsel for alleged communists subpoenaed before the House Un-American Activities Committee.
Fairchild, who served on the Wisconsin Supreme Court from 1957 to 1966, will be remembered as a great jurist and a great person with a good sense of humor, said Chief Justice Shirley S. Abrahamson.
Judge Fairchild was known as a kind and modest man. He lived his life without falling prey to the entitlements of power.
John Skilton, former State Bar president,
clerked for Justice Fairchild 1969 - 1970
"He was serious and well-respected as a jurist, but he could quickly lighten the most serious of moments," Abrahamson said.
In 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed him to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit. He served as chief judge for the 7th Circuit from 1975 to 1981, and had been a senior judge until his death.
Former State Bar President John Skilton, who clerked for Fairchild in 1969 and 1970, added, "Judge Fairchild was known as a kind and modest man. He lived his life without falling prey to the entitlements of power. You were welcome in his courtroom; you were welcome in his chambers. He had many friends and admirers - often the same people. He loved lawyers and being with lawyers - as any member of the Tri-county or Milwaukee or Dane county bars can attest. He will be greatly missed."
Fairchild was born 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 U.W. Law School in 1938.