John Rawls

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John Rawls


Ryan Abramovitz

Mr. J. Hubbert, Eds.
19 February 2013

John Bordley Rawls was born on February 21, 1921 in Baltimore, Maryland. His father, William Lee Rawls, was a prominent lawyer and his mother, Anna Abell Stump Rawls, was a chapter president of the League of Women Voters. He was the second of five sons, two of his brothers died in childhood because they both caught fatal illnesses from him. In 1928, John Rawls contracted diphtheria. His brother, Bobby, visited him in his room and was fatally infected. The next winter, Rawls caught pneumonia. Another younger brother, Tommy, caught the illness from him and died. Rawls’s sharp sense of the arbitrariness of fortune may have stemmed in part from this early experience. His remaining, older brother attended Princeton for undergraduate studies and was a great athlete.

He started school in Baltimore where he was born but later changed to a school in Connecticut. He ended up graduating in 1939. Rawls then followed his brother to Princeton. Although Rawls played baseball, he was excessively modest about his success at that or at any other endeavor. He ended up graduating summa cum laude and was accepted into The Ivy Club. He was also selected to join the American Whig-Cliosophic Society. During his last two years at Princeton he became deeply concerned with theology and its doctrines. His senior thesis was on his Christly living. With this he considered attending a seminary to study for the Episcopal priesthood.

In 1943, he completed his Bachelor of Arts degree and immediately enlisted in the Army. During World War II, Rawls served as an infantryman in the Pacific, where he toured New Guinea, the Philippines, and occupied Japan; there, he witnessed the aftermath of the bombing of Hiroshima. This lead him to question his religion and rethink his decisions on going got a seminary After this experience, Rawls turned down an offer to become an officer and left the army as a private in...
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