Friday, August 12, 2005


By Stockton

Most insider books and interviews are written by powerful people and give us an inside look at the world of the powerful. This holds true for the Supreme Court, where we are fed a constant diet of tell-all books, usually penned by clerks to the judges.

Fortunately, we recently unearthed an interview of Samuel "Chum" Hubbs, the Supreme Court Barber from 1899 to 1966. Mr. Hubbs comes across as a charming, loquacious man and proved to be a wealth of information. The interview was conducted in 1969, a few years after he resigned from his position. Mr. Hubbs died in 1978. The following are excerpts from that interview.

"Sure, I cut Holmes' hair. I cut them all, Holmes, Brandeis, Cardoza. Came from a long line of barbers. Dad was a barber, his father was and his grandfather was. My brother too. Old Nat cut hair for the Massachusetts Supreme Court. Got appointed to the 1st Circuit even, back in '31 or '32. Then the bottom fell out of the Barbisol market and he lost everything.

"McReynolds....sure, I cut his hair. Strange man, McReynolds. He had gone almost entirely white when he came to the court but still had some black strands. He insisted that I always separate the black hairs and white hairs. 'Make them equal lengths, Chum,' he'd say. "But make sure they're separated.' I remember McReynolds always got his hair cut on Sunday. Brandeis and Cardoza always came in on Saturday. That made McReynolds crazy. Said I should close up shop early on Saturdays and make them two go somewhere else.

"Brandeis was a good customer. Exacting, but good. Always came in with charts, studies and diagrams showing me why his hair grew like it did. That it was the environment he grew up in, that if he had grown up in different circumstances, his hair might be different. That's why Brandeis' hair style seems to change. I had to change it everytime there was a new study or poll.

Yeah, I was there through the War Years. Those were tough times for everyone and the court was no different. Black came in one day, sometime in '42 or late '43. He wanted me to cut certain hairs from his head and put them aside, in a special container. "Just until this is over, Chum," he said. "We can replace them after it's over." He asked me to keep an eye on those hairs until hostilities ceased. I shook my head. "But Judge, these are your hairs, grew right here out of your scalp." He smiled at me. "We're at war, Chum and good grooming habits aren't a suicide pact." That last part he stole from Justice Jackson.

"You heard of the Court Packing plan? I was instrumental in killing that idea. I was in my shop one day and who walks in? Franklin Delano Roosevelt himself. "Chum," he says, "I have an idea. You think you could handle four more appointments a week?" I just shook my head in disbelief. My appointment book was already filled up for an entire year. There was no way I could handle anymore. That's how the court packing plan got killed.

"My favorite customer? Justice Holmes. He was a charming man and a good tipper. We got to be pretty friendly too. Everytime Ollie walked in I'd shout, "Fire, fire!" He'd pretend to panic and we'd have a good laugh. Douglas was a favorite too. Willy O. would walk in and say, "I need a hair cut, Chum." I always replied, "Just one?" That was our little joke. Then he'd say, "No, cut the whole penumbra." Penumbra, never did understand that one.

"Regrets? Just one. I would have liked to get my hands on O'Connor or Ginsburgh. I think ol' Chum here could have helped them quite a bit."

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