Miller Center

American President

A Reference Resource

Francis B. Biddle (1945–1945): Attorney General

Francis Beverley Biddle was born May 9, 1886, in Paris, France, to American parents. He attended Harvard University and graduated with honors from Harvard Law School in 1911. Biddle began his career as the private secretary of Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes (1911-1912) before beginning a law practice in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he worked until 1937.

He acted as a special assistant U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania (1922-1926), chairman of the National Labor Relations Board (1934-1935), and chief counsel of the Special Joint Congressional Committee to Investigate the Tennessee Valley Authority (1938-1939). He was also a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals, Third Circuit, for one year (1939-1940), and he then served as solicitor general before joining the cabinet in September 1941.

Biddle served as FDR's attorney general from 1941 to 1945, handing in his resignation when Vice President Harry S. Truman assumed the presidency.

He then became a member of the Nuremberg war crimes tribunal (1945-1946), writing The Fear of Freedom (1951), A Casual Past (1961), and In Brief Authority (1962) in retirement. Francis Biddle died on October 4, 1968, in Wellfleet, Massachusetts.