Miller Center

American President

A Reference Resource

Frank Murphy (1939–1940): Attorney General

Francis William Murphy was born April 13, 1890, in Harbor Beach, Michigan, and graduated from the University of Michigan Law School in 1914. He began his career as a lawyer before enlisting in the U.S. Army during World War I, where he was promoted to captain of infantry and served in the army of occupation of Germany.

He was assistant U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan (1919-1922) and briefly a judge of the Recorders Court in Detroit (1923) before becoming mayor of Detroit (1930-1933). Murphy's political career continued as governor of the Philippine Islands (1933-1935) and as high commissioner in 1936.

He served as governor of Michigan (1937-1939) before accepting a cabinet position. He was attorney general in the Roosevelt administration from 1939 to 1940. In 1940, Murphy was appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court. He also acted as chairman of Philippine War Relief and as chairman of the National Committee against Nazi Persecution and Extermination of the Jews during World War II, after being told he was too old to join the Army. Murphy died on July 19, 1949, in Detroit, Michigan, while still serving as a justice on the Supreme Court.