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E. Howard McCaleb

E. Howard McCaleb served as the chief justice of the Louisiana Supreme Court for one year, from 1971 to 1972.

E. Howard McCaleb

Courtesy of The Law Library of Louisiana

E. Howard McCaleb. Parker, John Clay (Artist)

E. Howard McCaleb was the fifteenth chief justice of the Louisiana Supreme Court, a position he held from January 1, 1971, to December 22, 1972, after serving as an associate justice for two separate terms, 1941 to 1943 and 1947 to 1970. In his short tenure as chief justice, McCaleb dramatically reduced the delay in the criminal appeals docket. His opinions were regarded as scholarly and written with clarity.

McCaleb was born in New Orleans on December 25, 1897, to E. Howard McCaleb Sr. and Elodie Barriere McCaleb. He had many ancestors who were prominent in the legal profession, including his father and grandfather, both successful trial lawyers; his great-grandfather, Thomas Wharton Collens, judge of the Seventh District Court of Orleans Parish; and his great-uncle, Theodore Howard McCaleb, the first federal circuit court judge in Louisiana.

McCaleb’s education began in the public schools of New Orleans, and he also attended Ferrell’s Select School for Boys, formerly associated with Tulane University, and Staunton Military Academy in Staunton, Virginia. After high school graduation in 1914, he attended Tulane University for one year, which was followed by studies at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia, from 1915 to 1917. He served as a private in the army during World War I; he then returned to Washington and Lee University and graduated in June 1919 with a bachelor of laws degree. He moved back to New Orleans, where he studied the Louisiana civil law in his father’s law office and was admitted to the bar in 1920. McCaleb married Louise Wright of New Orleans in 1920, and they had two children, Marion Wright McCaleb Marshall and E. Howard McCaleb III.

McCaleb practiced law in his father’s firm from 1920 to 1924, when he was appointed assistant United States attorney. He returned to private practice in 1925, and in 1936 was appointed to the Court of Appeal for the Parish of Orleans. He served there until 1941, when he was appointed associate justice to fill a temporary vacancy on the Supreme Court after the death of John R. Land. In 1943 he returned to the Court of Appeal. He was elected to the Supreme Court without opposition for a fourteen-year term in 1946 and was reelected in 1961. He became chief justice in 1971 upon the retirement of Joe B. Hamiter and served until he reached the mandatory retirement age of seventy-five in 1972.

McCaleb was the first resident of New Orleans to serve as chief justice since 1922 and only the third chief justice who was born in New Orleans. He died in that city on October 30, 1978, and is buried in Garden of Memories Cemetery in Metairie, Louisiana.