Justice Thomas J. Burke (N.D. Supreme Court)

On this date in 1896, Justice Thomas J. Burke was born in Rolla, North Dakota. After serving in the Navy during World War I, Justice Burke attended and graduated with his Bachelor of Arts degree from Harvard University. He studied the law under his father, Justice John Burke (then a former N.D. Governor and former U.S. Secretary of Treasury and a future N.D. Supreme Court Justice) and Usher Burdick (a former N.D. Lt. Governor and future U.S. Congressman). After admission to the N.D. Bar, Justice Burke served as an Assistant Attorney General for North Dakota from 1929-1933. In 1935, Burke served in the North Dakota legislature where he was the Democratic Minority Leader. In 1937, his father, Justice John Burke, passed away still serving on the North Dakota Supreme Court. In 1938, Justice Thomas J. Burke (at age 42) ran a successful campaign against Justice P.O. Sathre, who was appointed to his father’s seat. Justice Thomas Burke went on to serve over 27 years on the bench before he died in office on March 20, 1966 at age 69. N.D. District Court Judge Eugene Burdick once recalled that when he studied the law “Tom Burke had the faculty to balance on the hind legs (on a straight chair) and just sit there hour after hour”.