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Nathaniel Clark Reed

Nathaniel Clark Reed wrote the decision while on the Supreme Court of Ohio deciding one of Ohio early fugitive slave cases.

He was born circa 1810, in Champaign County, Ohio, attended Athens College and studied law under Israel Hamilton of Urbana. Upon being admitted to the Ohio bar, he moved to Cincinnati.

Reed was elected to a two-year term as Hamilton County prosecuting attorney on Oct. 26, 1835. He was elected president judge of the Court of Common Pleas Ninth Circuit on March 18, 1839 for a seven-year term. He resigned to accept his appointment to the Supreme Court.

In 1842, he was elected by the Ohio General Assembly to serve on the Supreme Court to fill the vacancy caused by Justice Grimke’s resignation. He was commissioned to this position by Gov. Wilson Shannon to start his service on March 5, 1842. His term expired March 5, 1849. His opinions are in volumes 12 through 17 of the Ohio Reports

One notable case during Reed’s term on the Supreme Court was State v. Hoppess (1845). Reed wrote for the Court that slave owner Henry Hoppess, who was transporting slave Samuel Watson down the Ohio River, did have the right to recapture him when Watson went on shore within the territory of Ohio. Hoppess was attempting to transfer Watson to another steamboat after his docked temporarily in Cincinnati. Watson was found “leaning quietly against a post on the landing.” Hoppess seized Watson, claiming he had tried to escape. He sought to obtain a magistrate’s order requiring Watson to leave with him. Salmon P. Chase represented Watson and filed a writ of habeas corpus for Watson’s freedom.

As a result of this decision, when the abolitionists held the balance of power in the legislature in 1849, they dropped Read from the bench.

Upon leaving the Court, Reed returned to Cincinnati, but did not settle there. He moved to California and established a law practice in San Francisco. Reed died there on Dec. 28, 1853. He was buried in Yerba Buena Cemetery, which was relocated to City Cemetery.

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b. 1810

d. Dec. 28, 1853

26th Justice of the Supreme Court of Ohio

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