Laurance Mastic Hyde was born in Princeton, Missouri, on February 2, 1892. His parents were Ira B. Hyde, a lawyer and former United States Congressman, and Eliza Mastic Hyde, daughter of a San Francisco lawyer. Hyde obtained his undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Missouri, served in the Army during World War I, then became a lawyer in Princeton.
Hyde married a lecturer and writer, Florence Fuller, in 1922. They had two children, Laurance Jr. and Florence, who followed their father’s footsteps and became lawyers, as well.
In 1931, Hyde became a commissioner of the Missouri Supreme Court. Three years later, he ran for a seat on the court. During this time, Supreme Court judges were elected by the people. Hyde was defeated by Caleb Leedy Jr., but in 1940 Missouri adopted a new way to select judges. Called the Missouri Plan, it gave the governor the ability to appoint people to the Supreme Court. In 1943, Hyde was the first judge appointed under the Missouri Plan, and the first person in America to earn a judicial office by merit, not election.
When Hyde was appointed to the Supreme Court, the man who defeated him in the election of 1934, Leedy Jr., was still on the bench. Leedy Jr. and Hyde were such bitter political rivals that when a portrait of Hyde was presented to the Supreme Court after his death, Mrs. Hyde had the artist add a mustache to her late husband’s upper lip because she thought the original painting made him look too much like Leedy Jr. Despite the fact that the men were political enemies, Hyde and Leedy Jr. were buried next to each other!
Hyde served on the Supreme Court until 1967, when he was forced to retire. He was highly respected, and many believed him to be “the greatest judge who ever sat on the Missouri Supreme Court.” He had a reputation for being kind, intelligent, and always well dressed.← Winter, Edward Henry Dix, Leander Vaughn →