Justice William O. Douglas was proud of having been a private in the Army. So proud, his simple headstone in Arlington looks like this:
Interesting choice. But it’s even more interesting when you learn that there’s some doubt about whether his seemingly modest claim is even true. His Wikipedia page handles it like this:
“Throughout his life Douglas claimed he had been a U.S. Army private, which was inscribed on his headstone. Some historians, including biographer Bruce Murphy, asserted that this claim was false,although Murphy later added, according to Washington Posteditorial writer Charles Lane, that Douglas's ‘career on the court makes it 'appropriate'’ that he be buried in Arlington Cemetery.”
Well. I don’t know much about what made one eligible for burial at Arlington when Justice Douglas died. Other justices with no military service are buried there with him in Section 5. But it seems like it ought to be pretty easy to determine whether someone was ever a soldier. And, if it is a fib, it’s a strange one, and stranger still that he held it so close that it’s the lede on his tombstone.
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