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Special Collections Online at UT

Robert L. Taylor Papers

Identifier: MPA-0110

  • Staff Only

The collection includes both the personal and professional papers of Judge Taylor. A number of documents related to Judge Taylor’s family history and their role in Tennessee history are included among the Papers, as are documents detailing Judge Taylor’s professional life are also found among the papers.

The personal correspondence contained in the collection consists primarily of letters sent to Judge Taylor’s family history. His professional correspondence consists primarily of outgoing letters on administrative matters. Correspondence of a personal nature from notable individuals such as Justice Warren Burger, Potter Stewart and William O. Douglas, Senators Albert Gore, Sr., Estes Kefauver and Kenneth McKellar and Governor Gordon Browning are located among the Personal Correspondence files. Letters from these individuals concerning professional or official matters are contained within the Professional Correspondence files.

Among Judge Taylor’s professional papers are copies of speeches delivered in the mid-1950’s by Department of Justice officials, including Attorney General Herbert Brownell, Jr., on a variety of subjects such as Communism, anti-trust matters, international law, and the federal prison system. Also included in the collection are contents of the notebooks from the 1973, 1974, and 1975 Judicial Conferences of the United States. Judge Taylor’s own speeches on a variety of professional and civic topics, along with his joke file and collection of quotes, poetry and anecdotes, are among the Papers.

Major portions of the Collection are related to lawsuits over which Judge Taylor presided. Transcripts of the contempt of court litigation arising out of the desegregation of the Clinton, Tennessee schools are among the Papers, as are a large number of letters to Judge Taylor protesting his actions in this case. Other major portions of the collection consist of materials related to the prosecutions of Illinois Governor Otto Kerner, Jr. and Maryland Governor Marvin Mandel. Extensive pre-trial, trial, post-trial and appellate materials are included in the collection. Of particular note are the reflective notes of Judge Taylor and his law clerks regarding these cases. Materials related to the Tellico Dam lawsuit are not included in the collection.

Series 1: Personal Records and Materials contains family history, other related history, personal correspondence, and personal achievements and affiliations. Amongst the personal affiliations includes materials from Milligan College, Vanderbilt University, and Yale University. This series also includes the many speeches given by and collected by Judge Taylor, including graduation speeches, conference speeches, and speeches addressed to the Bar Association. Series 2: Judicial Materialsincludes materials related to the courtroom. It contains procedures that are to be followed as well as seminar and conference materials. The series also includes trial memorandum and addresses at conferences.

Series 3: Trial Materials includes materials from a few of Judge Taylor’s cases. The materials include pre-trial, trial, and post-trial materials and many transcripts from trials. The series includes materials from the Clinton School Desegregation trial, US v Isaacs, US v. Mandel, among others.

Series 4: Interviews (added in 2013) contain tapes and transcripts of 1981 interviews wih the Judge.


  • 1920-1989 (bulk 1950-1985)

Access to Collection

Collection is open for research; access requires at least 24 hours advance notice.

Conditions Governing Use

The copyright interests in this collection remain with the creator. For more information, contact the Modern Political Archives .


71.5 Linear Feet (124 boxes)


The Robert L. Taylor Papers include the personal and professional papers of the judge, who was appointed to the United States District Court, Eastern District of Tennesssee. Personal papers includes correspondence, family history, speeches given and collected by the judge. Professional papers include materials relayed to courtroom procedure and seminars, and material from a few of Judge Taylor's cases, including the Clinton desegregation trial, US v Isaacs and US v Mandel, among others. The collection also contains tapes and transcripts of 1981 oral history interviews with Robert Taylor (formally added to the collection in 2013).

Biographical/Historical Note

Robert Love Taylor served as federal district judge for the Eastern District of Tennessee in Knoxville from 1949 until taking senior status in 1985. Received a recess appointment from Harry S Truman on November 2, 1949, to a seat vacated by George C. Taylor and was nominated to the same position by Harry S Truman on January 5, 1950. He served as chief judge from 1961-1969 and assumed senior status on January 15, 1984 and served until his death.

The scion of a politically prominent Tennessee family, Judge Taylor was born in Embreeville,Tennessee on December 20, 1899. His grandfather, Nathaniel G. Taylor, served as U.S. Congressman for Tennessee's First District. Both his father, Alfred Taylor, and his uncle, Robert Taylor, served as governors of Tennessee and ran against each other in the 1886 "War of the Roses" election. His uncle later served as a United States Senator and was instrumental in persuading his nephew and namesake to become active in Democratic politics.

After attending Milligan College and Vanderbilt University, Judge Taylor graduated from the Yale University Law School in 1924. He then entered the private practice of law in Johnson City, Tennessee. He married Florence Fairfax McCain in 1933 and became the father of two children, Ann Tanner Taylor and Robert Love Taylor, Jr. Prior to his appointment to the federal bench in 1949, Judge Taylor served as Chairman of the State Democratic Executive Committee.

In his judicial career, Judge Taylor acquired a reputation as a fair and highly regarded trial judge. He was honored by Vanderbilt University in 1953 by election to honorary membership in the Order of the Coif, a legal honor society. He was elected District Judge Representative from the Sixth Circuit to the Judicial Conference of the United States in 1972 and was appointed to the Executive Committee of the Judicial Conference of the United States in 1973.

Judge Taylor was asked by Chief Justice Warren Burger to preside over the trial of Illinois Governor Otto Kerner, Jr. in 1973, and again in 1977 to preside over the racketeering trial of Maryland Governor Marvin Mandel. Other notable trials over which Judge Taylor presided include the Clinton, Tennessee school desegregation case and related contempt of court case in 1956 and 1957.

In the 1970's, Judge Taylor presided over the lawsuits against the Tennessee Valley Authority involving the threatened extinction of the snail darter by TVA's Tellico Dam.

In his private life, Judge Taylor served as a member of the Board of Trustees of Milligan College and was selected Distinguished Alumnus in 1977. He was also active in the Sons of the Revolution and several civic and charitable organizations. Judge Taylor was a frequent speaker at professional, civic and academic functions and delivered the Commencement Address at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville in June of 1978.


The Robert L. Taylor papers consist of four series:

Missing Title

  1. Personal Records and Material
  2. Judicial Materials
  3. Trial Materials
  4. Interviews (reel-to-reel tapes)

Repository Details

Part of the Betsey B. Creekmore Special Collections and University Archives, University of Tennessee, Knoxville Repository

University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Knoxville TN 37996 USA