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Stephenson, Judge Roy L.



  • Existence: 1917-1982


Roy L. Stephenson was born in Spirit Lake, Iowa, on March 14, 1917. He graduated from Spencer High School in 1934, after which he earned a BA in 1938 and a Law degree in 1940, both from the University of Iowa. He won a bronze and a silver star in World War II. In 1944, he set up a law practice in Des Moines. In 1953, he was named U. S. attorney for the Southern District of Iowa by President Eisenhower. In 1960, he became a district judge for the Southern District of Iowa, and became Chief Judge in 1961. He was appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit in 1971 where he served until his death in 1982.

Stephenson tried the first daft card burning case in the United States. He sentenced the young man to ten days probation and ordered him to get another draft card. The youth complied. One of his most controversial cases was Tinker vs the Des Moines schools in 1966. In this case, three students in the Des Moines school system wore black arm bands as a sign of mourning for the dead in Viet Nam. They were suspended by the school. They sued the school district, and Judge Stephenson ruled on the side of the school. The Tinkers eventually took the case to the Supreme Court, which overturned Judge Stephenson's ruling.

Apparently distraught over the terminal illness of his wife, Stephenson took his own life on November 5, 1982.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Judge Roy L. Stephenson Papers

Identifier: MsC0421

U.S. Circuit Judge, Eighth Circuit and previously U.S. District Judge. Case files, correspondence, and subject files.

Dates: 1960-1979