List of people who have served in all three branches of the United States federal government

John Marshall was probably the most important figure to serve in all three branches. Although his periods of service in Congress and as Secretary of State were both brief, he was Chief Justice of the United States for nearly 35 years, and had a powerful influence on the development of the Supreme Court.

Following is a list of persons who have served in all three branches of the United States federal government. Membership in this list is limited to persons who have:

  1. Served in the executive branch, as President of the United States, Vice President, a Cabinet officer, or another executive branch office requiring confirmation by the United States Senate; and
  2. Served as a member of either the United States Senate or of the House of Representatives; and
  3. Served as a United States federal judge on a court established under Article Three of the United States Constitution.

Summary

More than twenty men can claim to have served in all three federal government branches. The first person to achieve this distinction was John Marshall, when he was confirmed to the Supreme Court in 1801, having briefly served in Congress and as Secretary of State. The most recent person to join the list was George J. Mitchell, who had already been a United States Attorney and a District Court judge when he was elected to the United States Senate in 1980.

Of those who have served in all three branches, ten served as a United States Attorney; five served as Attorney General; four served as Secretary of the Navy; three served as Secretary of the Treasury; two served as Secretary of State; two served as Secretary of the Interior; two served as Director of the Office of Economic Stabilization; one served as Secretary of Labor; one served as Secretary of War; one served as Postmaster General, while this office was still a cabinet post. Three held multiple Cabinet posts. Although many Presidents and Vice Presidents have also served in Congress, and one later served on the Supreme Court, none has ever served in all three branches.

With respect to legislative service, ten of these men were Senators and eighteen were Representatives (including four who served in both houses). The states from which they were elected are largely diverse, with only three states having multiple members on the list: Virginia had four, Ohio had three, and Maine had two.

With respect to Judicial service, the tendency is toward higher office. Twelve members of the list served on the Supreme Court of the United States - three as Chief Justice. Of the other twelve, six served on Circuit Courts, one went from the District Court to a Circuit Court, and nine garnered their judicial branch service in District Court judgeships alone. Three of the Supreme Court Justices on the list had previously served on Federal Circuit courts. For nineteen of the members of the list, their judicial appointment was also their final point of service. Of the other five - one Supreme Court Justice, and four District Court judges - four resigned from the bench to take cabinet posts. The fifth instance was a District Court Judge who resigned the bench to take a seat in the United States Senate.

Three people on the list - James F. Byrnes, Salmon P. Chase, and Levi Woodbury - have, in addition to their varied federal government service, also served as Governor of a U.S. state.

List

Person Executive
branch service
Legislative
branch service
Judicial
branch service
Buckley, James L.James L. Buckley Undersecretary of State for Security Assistance, 1981–1982
President of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1982-1985
Senator, New York, 1971–1977 Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, 1985–1996
Byrnes, James F.James F. Byrnes Director, Office of Economic Stabilization, 1942-1943
Chairman, Office of War Mobilization, 1943-1945
Secretary of State, 1945–1947
Representative, South Carolina, 1911–1925
Senator, South Carolina, 1931–1941
Supreme Court Justice, 1941-1942
Chase, Salmon P.Salmon P. Chase Secretary of the Treasury, 1861-1864 Senator, Ohio, 1849–1855
1861
Chief Justice of the United States, 1864-1873
Clifford, NathanNathan Clifford Attorney General, 1846-1848 Representative, Maine, 1839-1843 Supreme Court Justice, 1858-1881
Danaher, John A.John A. Danaher United States Attorney, District of Connecticut, 1922-1934 Senator, Connecticut, 1939-1945 Judge of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, 1953-1980
Goff, Jr., NathanNathan Goff, Jr. United States Attorney for West Virginia, 1868-1881, 1881-1882
Secretary of the Navy, 1881
Representative, West Virginia, 1883-1889
Senator, West Virginia, 1913-1919
Judge, 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, 1892-1913
Key, David M.David M. Key Postmaster General, 1877–1880 Senator, Tennessee, 1875–1877 Federal Judge for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee and the Middle District of Tennessee, 1880-1895
Lamar (II), Lucius Quintus CincinnatusLucius Quintus Cincinnatus Lamar (II) Secretary of the Interior, 1885–1888 Representative, Mississippi, 1857-1860
1873-1877
Senator, Mississippi, 1877-1885
Supreme Court Justice, 1888-1893
Laurance, JohnJohn Laurance Judge Advocate General, 1777-1782 Representative, New York, 1789-1793
Senator, New York, 1796-1800
District Court Judge, New York, 1794-1796
MacKinnon, GeorgeGeorge MacKinnon United States Attorney, District of Minnesota, 1953-1958 Representative, Minnesota, 1947-1949 Judge of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, 1969-1995
Marshall, JohnJohn Marshall Secretary of State, 1800-1801 Representative, Virginia, 1799-1800 Chief Justice of the United States, 1801-1835
Mason, John Y.John Y. Mason Attorney General, 1845–1846
Secretary of the Navy, 1844-1845
1846–1849
Representative, Virginia, 1831-1837 District Court Judge, Eastern District of Virginia, 1841-1844
Matthews, StanleyStanley Matthews United States Attorney, Southern District of Ohio, 1858-1861 Senator, Ohio, 1877-1881 Supreme Court Justice, 1881-1889
McGranery, James P.James P. McGranery Attorney General, 1952-1953 Representative, Pennsylvania, 1937-1943 District Court Judge, Eastern District of Pennsylvania, 1946-1952
McKenna, JosephJoseph McKenna Attorney General, 1897–1898 Representative, California, 1885-1892 Judge, 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, 1892–1897
Supreme Court Justice, 1898–1925
McLean, JohnJohn McLean Postmaster General, 1823–1829 Representative, Ohio, 1813-1816 Supreme Court Justice, 1829–1861
Mikva, Abner J.Abner J. Mikva White House Counsel, 1994–1995 Representative, Illinois, 1969-1973
Representative, Illinois, 1975-1979
Appeals Court Judge, Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, 1979-1994
Mitchell, George J.George J. Mitchell United States Attorney, Maine, 1977-1979 Senator, Maine, 1980-1995 District Court Judge, District of Maine, 1979-1980
Moody, William HenryWilliam Henry Moody United States Attorney, District of Massachusetts, 1890-1895
Attorney General, 1904–1906
Secretary of the Navy, 1902–1904
Representative, Massachusetts, 1895-1902 Supreme Court Justice, 1906-1910
Paul, Jr., JohnJohn Paul, Jr. United States Attorney, Western District of Virginia, 1929-1932 Representative, Virginia, 1922-1923 District Court Judge, Western District of Virginia, 1932-1964
Pope, NathanielNathaniel Pope Secretary of the Illinois Territory, 1809-1816 Delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives, Illinois Territory, 1817-1818 Judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Illinois, 1819-1850
Schwellenbach, Lewis B.Lewis B. Schwellenbach Secretary of Labor, 1945–1948 Senator, Washington, 1934–1940 District Court Judge, Eastern District of Washington, 1940-1945
Smith, Caleb BloodCaleb Blood Smith Secretary of the Interior, 1861–1862 Representative, Indiana, 1843-1849 District Court Judge, District of Indiana, 1862-1864
Speer, EmoryEmory Speer United States Attorney, Northern District of Georgia, 1883-1885 Representative, Georgia, 1878-1882 District Court Judge, Southern District of Georgia, 1885-1918
Vaughan, Horace WorthHorace Worth Vaughan United States Attorney, District of Hawaii, 1915-1916 Representative, Texas, 1912–1914 District Court Judge, District of Hawaii, 1916-1922
Vinson, Fred M.Fred M. Vinson Director, Office of Economic Stabilization, 1943–1945
Secretary of the Treasury, 1945–1946
Representative from Kentucky, 8th and 9th districts, 1924–1929, 1931–1933, 1933–1938 Judge, D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, 1938–1943
Chief Justice of the United States, 1946-1953
Waddill, Jr., EdmundEdmund Waddill, Jr. United States Attorney, Eastern District of Virginia, 1883-1885 Representative, Virginia, 1890-1891 District Court Judge, Eastern District of Virginia, 1898-1921
Judge, 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, 1921-1931
Wilkins, WilliamWilliam Wilkins Secretary of War, 1844–1845 Senator, Pennsylvania, 1831-1834
Representative, Pennsylvania, 1843-1844
District Court Judge, Western District of Pennsylvania, 1824-1831
Woodbury, LeviLevi Woodbury Secretary of the Navy, 1831-1834
Secretary of the Treasury, 1834-1841
Senator, New Hampshire, 1825-1831
1841-1845
Supreme Court Justice, 1845-1851

Near misses

A number of people have come close to achieving this distinction, having held offices in two branches but having failed in an attempt to hold office in a third branch:

  • John J. Crittenden was a Representative and Senator from Kentucky, and was Attorney General. He was also unsuccessfully nominated to the Supreme Court.
  • Caleb Cushing served in Congress and the cabinet. He was also unsuccessfully nominated to the Supreme Court.
  • David Davis served as a Supreme Court Justice and as a U.S. Senator from Illinois, but he was never appointed to the executive branch although he served as Abraham Lincoln's 1860 campaign manager and later as an administrator of Lincoln's estate after the assassination.
  • Oliver Ellsworth served as one of Connecticut's first two United States senators and on the United States Supreme Court. He was an unsuccessful candidate for President of the United States, receiving eleven votes in the electoral college in the United States presidential election of 1796. He also served as a United States Envoy Extraordinary to the Court of France between 1799 and 1800, an unofficial position under the auspices of the executive branch.
  • Walter F. George served as U.S. Senator from George from 1922 until 1957 and later as a special ambassador to NATO, but his only worked as a judge for the Georgia Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court of Georgia, state positions rather than as a federal judge.
  • Ebenezer R. Hoar served in Congress and as Attorney General. He was unsuccessfully nominated to the Supreme Court.
  • John Jay was the first Chief Justice of the United States, and he was also elected to serve as a delegate to the First and Second Continental Congresses and served as United States Secretary of Foreign Affairs and as United States Minister to Spain before the Constitution was adopted.
  • John J. Jenkins was a territorial United States Attorney in Wyoming Territory from 1876-1880, and a Representative from Wisconsin from 1894 to 1909. He served as a judge of the United States District Court for the District of Puerto Rico from 1910-1911, but the court had not yet become an Article III court in that period.
  • John Marvin Jones served in Congress and held various executive branch positions, ultimately being appointed to the United States Court of Claims, an Article I court that falls under the Executive Branch, not the Judicial Branch.
  • William Lewis served as a United States Attorney for the District of Pennsylvania and as a United States District Court Judge, but he was only elected to the Pennsylvania State Legislature.
  • Sherman Minton served as a United States Senator from Indiana, and later sat as a judge on the Seventh Circuit, and then the United States Supreme Court. In between these offices, he was an advisor to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, but held no official office in the Executive Branch.
  • Walter Q. Gresham served as a judge for the Court of Appeals and also as Postmaster General, Secretary of the Treasury, and Secretary of State, but his only legislative service was in the Indiana House of Representatives.
  • John Pettit was a United States Attorney for Indiana from 1839-1843, and later served as both a Representative and a Senator. He served as a territorial judge in Kansas, but never as an Article III judge.
  • James E. Rogan was a Representative from California from 1997-2001, the Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director, United States Patent and Trademark Office, 2001-2004, and was nominated in 2007 to the United States District Court for the Central District of California but his nomination failed. He later served as Judge of the Superior Court of California, a state position rather than as a federal judge.
  • Jeff Sessions has served as U.S. Senator from Alabama since 1997. He previously served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney and as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama. In 1986, President Reagan nominated him to be a judge for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama, but his nomination was rejected by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
  • John C. Spencer served in Congress and as both Secretary of War and Secretary of the Treasury. He was also unsuccessfully nominated to the Supreme Court twice.
  • George Henry Williams was a Senator from Oregon from 1865-1871, and Attorney General from 1871–1875. He served as a Justice of the Oregon territorial supreme court, an Article I court, but was unsuccessfully nominated to the Supreme Court.

See also

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