Burger was born in St Paul, Minnesota in 1906 and became a lawyer. Always a staunch Republican he moved to Virginia to work in the Eisenhower administarion. Burger becaem a prominent critic of Chief Justice Earl Warren and argued in favour of the very literal constructionist reading of the US Constitution.
Because of these views, in 1969 President Richard Nixon appointed Burger to succeed Warren. Burger's tenure began on several conservative notes, including reaffirming the death penalty. In the early 1970s, however, he began to be much more liberal in his interpretations, supporting busing to reduce racial segregation. In what is arguably the most important ruling of his term, Roe v. Wade, Burger voted with the majority for the legalization of abortion. In 1974 Burger ruled against Nixon's attempt to keep several memos and tapes relating to the Watergate Scandal private, prompting Nixon to resign as president in order to avoid impeachment.