My Father's Evening Star

Douglas, William O. (William Orville)
1951-11-26

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Justice Douglas explains his father's last words and why faith, like his father's, is necessary to ensure freedom and guide people and nations through difficult times.

Subjects
Christianity
Death
Faith
Liberty
Acquisitiveness
Spirituality
Self-determination, national
Washington (D.C.)
United States
United States Supreme Court
Permanent URL
http://hdl.handle.net/10427/76023
ID: tufts:MS025.006.013.00004.00001
To Cite: DCA Citation Guide
Usage: Detailed Rights
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And now, This I Believe. A series of living philosophies presented in the hope they may help to strengthen and enrich your life. Here is Edward R. Murrow.
This I Believe. It sometimes happens that men in high places forget a sense of humility. William Orville Douglas, Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, is not one of these. Justice Douglas was born in Minnesota 53 years ago, reared in the wide-open spaces of the far west. Lawyers can be stuffy at times but here is one of the nation's most brilliant students of the law who cherishes a kinship with nature. He fishes, hunts, climbs mountains and probes into the back country of distant lands to
learn how simple men live and think. His own life has been a turbulence of challenge and hard work. Now Mr. Justice Douglas shares with us his convictions.
During moments of sadness or frustration, I often think of a family scene years ago in the town of Yakima, Washington. I was about seven or eight years old at the time. Father had died a few years earlier. Mother was sitting in the living room talking to me, telling me what a wonderful man Father was. She told me of his last illness and death. She told me of his departure from Cleveland, Washington, to Portland, Oregon, for what proved to be a fatal operation. His last words to her were these: “If I die it will be glory, if I live it will be grace.”
I remember how those words puzzled me. I could not understand why it would be glory to die. It would be glory to live, that I could understand. But why it would be glory to die was something I did not understand until later.
Then one day in a moment of great crisis I came to understand the words of my father. “If I die it will be glory, if I live it will be grace.” That was his evening star. The faith in a power greater than man. That was the faith of our fathers. A belief in a God who controlled man in the universe, that manifested itself in different ways to different people. It was written by scholars and learned men into dozens of different
creeds. But riding high above all secular controversies was a faith in One who was the Creator, the Giver of Life, the Omnipotent.
Man’s age-long effort has been to be free. Throughout time he has struggled against some form of tyranny that would enslave his mind or his body. So far in this century, three epidemics of it have been let loose in the world.
We can keep our freedom through the increasing crisis of history only if we are self-reliant enough to be free—dollars, guns, and all the wondrous products of science and the machine will not be enough. “This night thy soul shall be required of thee.”
These days I see graft and corruption reach high into government. These days I see people afraid to speak their minds because someone will think they are unorthodox and therefore disloyal. These days I see America identified more and more with material things, less and less with spiritual standards. These days I see America drifting from the Christian faith, acting abroad as an arrogant, selfish, greedy nation, interested only in guns and in dollars, not in people and their hopes and aspirations.
These days the words of my father come back to me more and more. We need his faith, the faith of our fathers. We need a faith that dedicates us to something bigger and more important than ourselves or our possessions. Only if we have that faith will we be able to guide the destiny of nations, in this the most critical period of world history. This I Believe.
That was Associate Justice William Orville Douglas of the Supreme Court with a message of faith for the future.