Southern Indiana

The Sherman Minton Bridge has received plenty of news coverage over the last few years as it undergoes major renovations, but little attention has been paid to the structure’s namesake.

Now, Floyd County leaders are hoping to shine a spotlight on Minton and his political legacy. He was a United States senator and Supreme Court justice.

The Indiana Historical Bureau will unveil a marker Sunday dedicated to Minton in Georgetown, his hometown.

“There’s probably citizens that really still don’t know who Sherman Minton was or his historical significance,” said town council president Chris Loop. “They know the name of a bridge, but they may not know that he was a sitting Supreme Court justice and had input on major events such as Brown v. Board of Education, which obviously had national implications. And we still see the effects of that decision.”

Minton was born in Georgetown in 1890. After attending high school in Edwardsville and New Albany, he earned law degrees from Indiana University and Yale University.

Minton returned to Floyd County to practice law, and ran two unsuccessful congressional campaigns. Political success finally came in 1934, when Hoosiers elected him to the U.S. Senate.

He developed a friendship with President Harry Truman while he was a senator, which resulted in other political opportunities in the years that followed. After serving as a Seventh Circuit Court judge for eight years, Truman nominated Minton to a Supreme Court post.

In his seven years as a Supreme Court justice, Minton played an important role in opposing racial segregation with cases like Brown v. Board of Education and Barrows v. Jackson, which determined that segregated schools and racially-restrictive neighborhood covenants were unconstitutional. Health issues forced Minton to retire in 1956 and return to New Albany, where he died in 1965.

Matt Uhl serves on the Greenville Historic Preservation Commission, which applied for the Minton historical designation on Georgetown’s behalf, since that town doesn’t have its own historical board. Greenville is a rural Floyd County town a few miles north of Georgetown.

Uhl said he’s happy the state is honoring a Hoosier from a more rural part of Southern Indiana.

“With Sherman Minton’s childhood there in Georgetown — the adverse conditions in which he grew up and really the way that he was able to be a self-made person through his own education and some tough upbringings — to become a Supreme Court justice is really an amazing story,” Uhl said. “I think [it’s] emblematic of a lot of what people in the county are trying to do and kind of pulling themselves up by their bootstraps, so to speak.”

Minton’s historical marker will be the 22nd in Floyd County, and the second outside of New Albany.

John Boyle is a reporter and editor at WFPL news focused on Southern Indiana. He is a corps member with Report For America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.