Open House at Vinson Center honors birthday of namesake;
Lawrence County’s most notable figure, Fred M. Vinson would be pleased to know that his birthday was celebrated Tuesday with an open house at his home in Louisa, shared with the citizens whose ancestors he worked so hard to help.
The house where Vinson was born was built in front of the original jail in Louisa where his father served as jailer. Built in 1822, the hand hewn massive rock walls can still be seen today. Restored in later years, the house is one of the most historic buildings in the county, and sits proudly at the corner of Madison and Vinson Street, which is named in honor of this native son.
Born January 22, 1890, Frederick M. Vinson grew up in Louisa helping his father at the jail, and doing odd jobs through school. He was an avid baseball player who was remembered as friendly and kind. He graduated from Centre College and became a lawyer. His first elected office was as the City Attorney of Louisa. Vinson married Roberta Dixon of Ashland in 1924, and they had two sons, Frederick Jr., and James.
In 1924, he ran on the Democratic ticket for Congress where he won and served through 1937.
While in Congress he became close friends with then Senator Harry S. Truman. When Truman decided not to seek another term as President, he tried to persuade Vinson to run in 1952, but Vinson turned down the offer.
On November 26, 1937, President Franklin D. Roosevelt nominated Vinson to the Supreme Court where he later became Chief Judge of the United States Emergency Court of Appeals, and eventually Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in 1946. During his tenure, he dealt with major issues in the country such as racial segregation, labor unions, and communism. Some of the most famous cases were Brown vs. Board of Education and Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. vs. Sawyer. He is credited with patching up the fracture that existed in the Supreme Court during that time to the extent that some of the justices weren’t even speaking to each other.
As Chief Justice, Vinson swore in Harry S. Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower as Presidents.
However, decisions rendered during his years on the bench helped bring about social change for the next two decades.
Frederick M. Vinson died suddenly of a heart attack on September 8, 1953. His body rests in Pine Hill Cemetery here in Louisa. His legacy is one of a boy from a small town and humble beginnings to a man who rose up through the political ranks to hold one of the highest offices in our government, during some of the most turbulent times in America.
Vinson’s house now serves as a museum and visitor center which is always looking for volunteers. If you are interested, you may call Connie Queen at 638-0078, or speak to volunteers, Lilly Vinson and Gail McKenzie.
Plans are in the works to have an annual celebration honoring Vinson.
The museum’s winter hours are Thursday, and Friday, 10-4, and Saturday, 10-2. Normal hours will resume in the Spring.