Elbert Tuttle

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Elbert Tuttle
Senior Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
In office
October 1, 1981 – June 23, 1996
Senior Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
In office
June 1, 1968 – October 1, 1981
Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
In office
Preceded byRichard Rives
Succeeded byJohn Robert Brown
Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
In office
August 4, 1954 – June 1, 1968
Appointed byDwight D. Eisenhower
Preceded bySeat established by 68 Stat. 8
Succeeded byLewis Render Morgan
Personal details
Elbert Parr Tuttle

(1897-07-17)July 17, 1897
Pasadena, California
DiedJune 23, 1996(1996-06-23) (aged 98)
Atlanta, Georgia
EducationCornell University (A.B.)
Cornell Law School (LL.B.)

Elbert Parr Tuttle (July 17, 1897 – June 23, 1996) was the Chief United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit from 1960 to 1967, when that court became known for a series of decisions crucial in advancing the civil rights of African Americans during the Civil Rights Movement. A Republican from Georgia, he was among the judges that became known as the "Fifth Circuit Four". At that time, the Fifth Circuit included not only Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas (its jurisdiction as of 2012), but also Alabama, Georgia, Florida, and the Panama Canal Zone.

Education and early career[edit]

Tuttle was born in Pasadena, California. In 1906, his family moved to Hawaii where he attended Punahou School. In October 1910, he and his brother Malcolm built and flew the first glider in Hawaii.

Tuttle graduated from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York in 1918 with an Artium Baccalaureus degree. Tuttle was the founder of the Beta Theta chapter of Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity at Cornell and was a member of the Sphinx Head Society. He then fought in World War I in the United States Army Air Service from 1918 to 1919.

Tuttle received a Bachelor of Laws from Cornell Law School, where he served as editor-in-chief of the Cornell Law Quarterly, in 1923.[1] He was a reporter for the New York Evening World for several years while attending law school.

Later career[edit]

After graduating from law school, he moved to the capital city of Atlanta, Georgia, to practice law with the law firm of Sutherland, Tuttle & Brennan from 1923 to 1953 (the firm is now Sutherland Asbill & Brennan). Tuttle worked on tax litigation and also did pro bono work, including with the American Civil Liberties Union, and took on numerous civil rights cases.

Tuttle served as a colonel in the United States Army from 1941 to 1946, in World War II, declining a desk job. He was severely injured after engaging in hand-to-hand combat in Okinawa on the island of Ie Shima. He was awarded numerous medals for his service including the Purple Heart with Oak Leaf Cluster, the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star, and the Bronze Service Arrowhead. Tuttle retired as a brigadier general and was often called "The General" by those who worked closely with him.[2] After the War, Tuttle became more involved in politics, working with the Republican Party because of his opposition to segregation, which he associated mostly with southern Democrats. He was a general counsel for the United States Department of the Treasury from 1953 to 1954.[3]

Federal judicial service[edit]

Tuttle was nominated by President Dwight D. Eisenhower on July 7, 1954, to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, to a new seat authorized by 68 Stat. 8. He was confirmed by the United States Senate on August 3, 1954, and received his commission the next day. He served as Chief Judge from 1960 to 1967 and was a member of the Judicial Conference of the United States from 1961 to 1967. He assumed senior status on June 1, 1968. He was reassigned by operation of law to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit on October 1, 1981, pursuant to 94 Stat. 1994. His service terminated on June 23, 1996, due to his death in Atlanta.[3]

Georgia gubernatorial election dispute[edit]

In the aftermath of the disputed 1966 Georgia gubernatorial election between Democrat Lester Maddox and Republican Howard "Bo" Callaway, Tuttle joined Judge Griffin Bell, later the United States Attorney General, in striking down the Georgia constitutional provision requiring that the legislature chose the governor if no general election candidate receives a majority of the vote. The judges concluded that a malapportioned legislature might "dilute" the votes of the candidate with a plurality, in this case Callaway. Bell compared legislative selection to the former County Unit System, a kind of electoral college formerly used in Georgia to select the governor but invalidated by the U.S. Supreme Court. Bell and Tuttle granted a temporary suspension of their ruling to permit appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court and stipulated that the state could resolve the deadlock so long as the legislature not make the selection. In a five-to-two decision known as Fortson v. Morris, the high court struck down the Bell-Tuttle legal reasoning and directed the legislature to choose between Maddox and Callaway. Two liberal justices, William O. Douglas and Abe Fortas, had argued against legislative selection of the governor, but the court majority, led this time by Hugo Black took the strict constructionist line and cleared the path for Maddox's ultimate election.[4]


The Elbert P. Tuttle U.S. Court of Appeals Building was named in his honor in 1989.[citation needed] For his work in civil rights cases in the South, Tuttle received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1981.[citation needed] He has a star on Atlanta's International Civil Rights Walk of Fame.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Elson, Charles M. (1996). "Remembering Judge Elbert P. Tuttle, Sr" (PDF). Cornell Law Review. 82 (1): 15–18. Retrieved 9 February 2018.
  2. ^[permanent dead link]
  3. ^ a b "Tuttle, Elbert Parr - Federal Judicial Center". www.fjc.gov.
  4. ^ Billy Hathorn, "The Frustration of Opportunity: Georgia Republicans and the Election of 1966", Atlanta History: A Journal of Georgia and the South, XXI (Winter 1987-1988), pp. 46-47


Legal offices
Preceded by
Seat established by 68 Stat. 8
Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
Succeeded by
Lewis Render Morgan
Preceded by
Richard Rives
Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
Succeeded by
John Robert Brown