Biddle, Francis, 1886-1968

Alternative names
Birth 1886-05-09
Death 1968-10-04
French, English

Biographical notes:

Francis Beverley Biddle (1886-1968) was a graduate of Groton and Harvard. After Harvard Law School he served for one year as secretary to Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes. A practicing attorney in Philadelphia for twenty-five years, Biddle was named the first chairman of the National Labor Relations Board in 1934, filling the post for one year. In 1939, Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed him judge of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. In 1940, he was appointed Solicitor General of the United States, and in September 1941, Attorney General of the United States. After leaving that post in May 1945, he was appointed the U.S. member of the International Military Tribunal that tried the Nazi war criminals at Nuremburg. From 1947 until his death in 1968, he was a speaker and writer, and was active in the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial Commission and the Americans for Democratic Action, the latter of which he headed as national chairman from 1950 to 1953.

From the description of Biddle, Francis B. (Francis Beverley), 1886-1968 (U.S. National Archives and Records Administration). naId: 10580791

Francis Beverley Biddle was born in Paris, France, on May 9, 1886. He attended Groton School and Harvard University, where he graduated A.B. in 1909 and LL. B. in 1911. The following year he became private secretary to Oliver Wendell Holmes, was admitted to the Pennsylvania bar and entered practice in Philadelphia with the firm of Biddle, Paul & Jayne. In 1915 Biddle moved to the firm of Barnes, Biddle & Myers, where he remained until 1939. In 1935, Biddle was appointed chairman of the National Labor Relations Board by Franklin D. Roosevelt, a position he held until the National Recovery Act was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court later that year. From 1938 to 1939 he acted as chief counsel for the joint congressional committee that conducted an investigation of the Tennessee Valley Authority. In 1939 he was appointed judge of the Circuit Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. He left the bench the following year when Roosevelt appointed him solicitor general. Biddle became attorney general in 1941, serving until after Roosevelt's death in 1945. As attorney general he was chief prosecutor of eight German spies and saboteurs apprehended on the coasts of Florida and Long Island during the early part of the Second World War. He also administered the U.S. wartime internment of aliens, although he found the policy a violation of civil liberties. On Oct. 12, 1942, he was able to remove Italian-Americans from the status of enemy aliens. After the war, Biddle was appointed American member-judge of the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg. In 1947 Biddle was invited by Harry Truman to be considered for nomination to the position of secretary general to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. However, due to dissension among the other delegates regarding nominations, his name was not formally presented. Some weeks later, Truman nominated him as American representative to the United Nations Economic and Social Council. When the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate hesitated to approve the nomination, Biddle removed his name from consideration. In addition to his work with the federal government, Biddle served in official posts in many private organizations. He was national chairman of Americans for Democratic Action (1950-53); a member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague (1951-61); chairman of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial Committee (1956-66); vice-chairman of the board of trustees of the Twentieth Century Fund (1951-67); and chairman of the National Committee of the American Civil Liberties Union (c.1964-68). Francis Biddle married the poet Katherine Garrison Chapin in 1918. He died in Hyannis, Mass., on Oct. 4, 1968.

From the description of Francis B. Biddle papers, 1912-1968 (bulk 1940-1966). (Georgetown University). WorldCat record id: 79869834

Husband of the poet Katherine Garrison Chapin.

From the description of Correspondence to Maxwell Struthers Burt, 1943. (University of Pennsylvania Library). WorldCat record id: 122542282

Francis Biddle, U.S. Attorney General during the Second World War, was one of the two American judges at the Nuremberg War Crimes Trial.

From the description of Notes taken at the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials, 1 February-30 March, 1946. (Harvard Law School Library). WorldCat record id: 78956704


Biddle served in Franklin D. Roosevelt's administration with the National Labor Relations Board, 1934-1939, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, 1939-1941, and as Attorney General, 1941-1945.

From the description of Papers, 1912-1967. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 155521741

Francis Biddle, lawyer, Attorney General of the United States under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and member of the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg, was born in Paris, France, on May 9, 1886, the son of Algernon Sydney and Frances (Robinson) Biddle, and was brought to America in infancy. He attended Haverford School from 1895 to 1899 and Groton School from 1899 to 1905. From Harvard College he received his B.A. cum laude in 1909.

After receiving his LL.B. cum laude from the Harvard Law School in 1911, Mr. Biddle served as private secretary to Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes from 1911 to 1912. He practiced law in Philadelphia, first with Biddle, Paul and Jayne, 1912-1915, and then with Barnes, Biddle and Myers, 1917-1939. Mr. Biddle was appointed special assistant to the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, 1922-1926, first chairman of the National Labor Relations Board, 1934, and chief counsel of the joint Congressional committee to investigate the Tennessee Valley Authority, 1938-1939. He was judge for the United States Circuit Court of Appeals, 3d Circuit, 1939-1940, Solicitor General of the United States, 1940-1941, and Attorney General from September 1941 to June 1945. He was appointed United States member of the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg, to which service most of the papers in this collection refer. Mr. Biddle was also a member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration.

Among his writings are The Llanfear Pattern, a novel, 1927; Mr. Justice Holmes, 1942; Democratic Thinking and the War, 1944; The World's Best Hope, 1949; The Fear of Freedom, 1951; Justice Holmes, Natural Law and the Supreme Court, 1961; the memoirs A Casual Past, 1961, and In Brief Authority, 1962; and contributions to a number of legal publications. Mr. Biddle died at his home on Cape Cod on October 4, 1968.

From the guide to the Francis Biddle Collection of International Military Tribunal Nuremberg Trial Documents and Related Material, 1928-1960, 1945-1946, (Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries)


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  • War crime trials
  • Antitrust law
  • New Deal, 1933-1939
  • Elections
  • Nuremberg Trial of Major German War Criminals, Nuremberg, Germany, 1945-1946
  • Military history
  • Courts
  • Water resources development
  • Historians
  • War criminals
  • Censorship
  • Sabotage
  • Corporations, Government
  • Civil rights
  • Nuremberg Trial of Major German War Criminals, Nuremberg, Germany, 1945-1946--Sources
  • World War, 1939-1945--Atrocities
  • Katyn Massacre, Katynʹ, Russia, 1940
  • Politics, government and public administration
  • Natural history
  • Prisons
  • Reconstruction (1939-1951)
  • War crime trials--Germany (West)--Nuremburg
  • Industrial relations
  • Petroleum industry and trade


  • Attorneys general
  • Lawyers


  • Germany (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)