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Warren E. Burger wearing an academic gown and the Chancellor's Chain and Badge during W&M Commencement, 1993
Warren E. Burger, in his William & Mary Chancellor’s robe, with Professor Virginia McLaughlin, at the 1993 Commencement ceremony.

Warren E. Burger (1907-1995) was the 15th Chief Justice of the United States and the 20th Chancellor of William & Mary.

He grew up in St. Paul, Minnesota, where he attended the University of Minnesota and then the St. Paul College of Law as a night student, all while working full time during the day.  After graduating magna cum laude in 1931, he joined the firm Boyeson, Otis, Brill & Faricy St. Paul, becoming a partner in 1933. His participation in Harold Stassen's campaign for the Republican presidential nomination in 1952 led to his becoming Assistant Attorney General, Civil Division, in the U.S. Department of Justice under the Eisenhower administration. He served as a judge for the Federal Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit, from 1956-1969. In May 1969, President Nixon appointed him Chief Justice of the United States, and his nomination was confirmed by an overwhelming margin in June.

During his seventeen years as Chief Justice, he not only presided over the Court's many historic decisions but also worked tirelessly to improve the way the judiciary functions and how justice is administered throughout the nation's courts. In 1986, he resigned from the Supreme Court to devote his time and energy to serving as chairman of the Commission on the Bicentennial of the United States Constitution, while also serving as Chancellor of William & Mary from 1986-1993.  In 1996, Wade A. Burger donated his father’s papers to William & Mary Libraries.  All facets of Chief Justice Burger’s career are well represented in the approximately 1,200 cubic feet of papers, 2,500 photographs and more than 300 artifacts in custody of the Special Collections Research Center. 

Selected Awards

The following is a brief selection of the Chief Justice’s many honors and awards: 

Year Award Institution
1973 Honorary Doctor of Laws degree William & Mary
1978 John Marshall Award for Excellence in American Legal History William & Mary
1983 George Washington Award Freedoms Foundation
1984 Edward J. Devitt Distinguished Service to Justice Award Dwight D. Opperman Foundation
1984 Presidential Citation American Bar of the United States Supreme Court
1985 Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation Award in Law University of Virginia School of Law
1987 James Madison Award for Distinguished Public Service American Whig-Cliosophic Society of Princeton
1987 American Bar Association Medal American Bar Association
1988 Sylvanus Thayer Award United States Military Academy
1988 Presidential Medal of Freedom U.S. President Ronald Reagan

Preceded by

William & Mary Chancellor

Succeeded by

Alvin Duke Chandler 1962-1974

Warren E. Burger 1986-1993

Lady Margaret Thatcher 1993-2000

Selected Links

Biography of Warren E. Burger on Oyez from Cornell University’s Legal Information Institute (LII), Justia, and Chicago-Kent College of Law

Chief Justice Warren E. Burger related audio and video coverage on C-Span

Want to find out more?

To search for further material, visit the Special Collections Research Center's Search Tool List for other resources to help you find materials of interest.

Questions? Have ideas or updates for articles you'd like to see? Contact the Special Collections Research Center at or 757-221-3090.

A note about the contents of this site

This website contains the best available information from known sources at the time it was written. Unfortunately, many of the early original records of William & Mary were destroyed by fires, military occupation, and the normal effects of time. The information in this website is not complete, and it changes as we continue to research and uncover new sources.