Jacob Trieber served as United States District Judge for the Eastern
District of Arkansas from 1901 to 1927. He was the first Jewish judge
ever to serve on the federal bench. Trieber was born in Prussia in
1853, immigrated with his parents to St. Louis in 1866; the family
moved to Helena, Arkansas in 1868. A brilliant student, he began to
read law with a retired justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court after
graduating from high school. He became a member of the Arkansas
Bar in 1876, practiced successfully in Helena, and was active in civic
life. A member of Temple Beth El, he married Ida Schradski in 1882,
with whom he had a son and daughter.
A Republican, Trieber was elected a Helena City Councilman and
Phillips County Treasurer, but lost elections for statewide and federal
office. In 1897 President McKinley appointed him U.S. Attorney for
the Eastern District of Arkansas, where he served until he became
a federal judge on January 9, 1901. The bench, bar, and public
unanimously supported his appointment.
As a jurist Trieber was noted for his integrity, intelligence,
fairness, and his progressive vision of the Constitution. In United
States v. Hodges
he held that the 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution
and federal statutes protected black persons who were prevented from
employment by Klu
Klux Klan intimidation. The U.S. Supreme Court
in 1906, but the Court reversed itself in 1968 and
accepted Judge Trieber's reasoning. Following the Elaine Massacre of
1919 Judge Trieber stopped the executions of six black men whose
trials were unconstitutional. Trieber often sat with the U.S. Court of
Appeals in St. Louis and the federal courts in New York.
Judge Trieber died in 1927 and is buried in Congregation B'nai
Israel cemetery in Little Rock.