Howard Thomas Markey – Major General, United States Air Force Federal Judge

Howard Thomas Markey (November 10, 1920 – May 3, 2006) was an American jurist who served as the first chief judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. He is often credited with establishing that court’s renown and competence in intellectual property law.

Markey was born in Chicago, Illinois to Thomas Joseph and Vera Marie (Dryden) Markey. He served in the U.S. Army Air Forces during World War II as a test pilot, flying P-38s and P-59 jets in extreme cold-weather. He left the Army in 1946 as a Major, and became a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Air Force Reserve. Markey subsequently earned his undergraduate degree and a J.D. in an accelerated one-year program at Loyola University School of Law in 1949, and an L.L.M. in patent law in 1950 from John Marshall Law School. He returned to active military service in the Korean War, in which he served as a planner of the Korean airlift.

Markey returned to Chicago following the war, specializing his private legal practice in patent law and other areas of intellectual property. He remained in the Air Force Reserve, and served as commander of the Illinois Air National Guard and as deputy commander of the Reserve’s Tactical Air Command. Markey retired from the Air Force Reserve in 1976 as a Major General, having received the Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit and the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Markey was nominated by President Richard Nixon in 1972 to become chief judge of the U.S. Court of Customs and Patent Appeals. After that court was merged with the appellate division of the federal Court of Claims to establish the Federal Circuit in 1982, he continued to serve as chief judge of the new court until 1991. During his tenure on both courts, and while sitting by designation in the regional circuits, Markey is estimated to have participated in over 6,400 cases, and to have written over 1000 opinions. Following his retirement from the bench, Markey served as the dean of John Marshall Law School, from 1991 until 1994.

In 1997, Congress named the Federal Circuit’s Washington, D.C. headquarters after Markey. Congressman Henry Hyde (R-IL), then-chair of the House Judiciary Committee, said that Markey’s efforts had established the Federal Circuit as “the world’s most respected and followed court on matters of intellectual property.”

Markey, who suffered from Parkinson’s Disease, died on May 3, 2006 in a nursing home in Hinsdale, Illinois where he lived his last years. He is said to have asked the nursing home staff to call him “judge” and “general” on alternate days. Markey was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

His wife of 52 years, Elizabeth Pelletier Markey, died in 1994. They had three sons: Thomas, who died in infancy, Christopher and Jeffrey; and a daughter, Jennifer.


  • DATE OF BIRTH: 11/10/1920
  • DATE OF DEATH: 05/03/2006

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