May 24, 2020

Bangor native to head Supreme Court society

PORTLAND – Bangor native Ralph I. Lancaster Jr. has been elected president of the U.S. Supreme Court Historical Society in Washington, D.C. The society, a private nonprofit organization, is dedicated to the collection and preservation of the history of the court.

The society conducts education programs, supports historical research, and publishes books, journals and electronic material. It also collects antiques and artifacts related to the court’s history.

Lancaster, 78, of Falmouth became involved with the society in its early years. It was founded in 1972 by Chief Justice Warren E. Burger, who served as its honorary chairman.

“The principle concerns of the society,” Lancaster said Friday in a phone interview, “are the preservation of artifacts and memorabilia and education about the history of the court itself. As an example, this month the society is sponsoring two separate weeks of instruction for teachers about the history of the court.”

Lancaster said the society also acquires busts and portraits of former members for its art collection. The society, he said, recently was given the papers that were used by writer Anthony Lewis in researching his 1964 book, “Gideon’s Trumpet.” It described the story behind the Gideon vs. Wainwright case when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that criminal defendants have the right to an attorney even if they cannot afford to pay for one.

Lancaster spent the first 11 years of his life on High Street in Bangor, then moved into the house next to the Bangor Opera House. He graduated from John Bapst High School, then earned a bachelor’s degree from the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass. He earned his law degree from Harvard Law School.


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