Benjamin Barr Lindsey

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Lindsey, Benjamin Barr

Lindsey, Benjamin Barr (Ben Lindsey), 1869–1943, American judge and reformer, b. Jackson, Tenn. As judge of the juvenile court of Denver from 1900 to 1927, he founded the American juvenile court system, for which he won world recognition. His works include The Beast (with Harvey J. O'Higgins, 1910), and an autobiography, The Dangerous Life (with Rube Borough, 1931).


See biography by C. E. Larsen (1972).

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Lindsey, Benjamin Barr

(1869–1943) jurist, reformer; born in Jackson, Tenn. The son of a debt-ridden, depressive confederate officer, he moved with his family to Denver, Colo., at age 11. When his father killed himself five years later, he went to work as an office boy for a lawyer; studying in his free time, he was admitted to the Colorado bar in 1894. He became a crusader for the juvenile court movement, pushing through legislation that created the first such court in the U.S.A. As juvenile court judge for more than a quarter-century (1900–27), he held that economic injustice caused crime and that juvenile offenders should be treated rather than punished. He also established the principle that adults may be legally responsible for contributing to the delinquency of a minor. He moved to California in 1928 and became a Superior Court judge in Los Angeles in 1934. In later years he campaigned for sex education, contraception, and the liberalization of divorce laws. His autobiography, The Dangerous Life, appeared in 1931.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.