Charles Evans Whittaker

Last updated

Charles Evans Whittaker
Charles Whittaker.jpg
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States
In office
March 22, 1957 March 31, 1962
Nominated by Dwight D. Eisenhower
Preceded by Stanley Forman Reed
Succeeded by Byron Raymond White
Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
In office
June 5, 1956 March 24, 1957
Nominated by Dwight D. Eisenhower
Preceded by John Caskie Collet
Succeeded by Marion Charles Matthes
Judge of the United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri
In office
July 8, 1954 June 21, 1956
Nominated by Dwight D. Eisenhower
Preceded by Albert L. Reeves
Succeeded by Randle Jasper Smith
Personal details
Born
Charles Evans Whittaker

(1901-02-22)February 22, 1901
Troy, Kansas
DiedNovember 26, 1973(1973-11-26) (aged 72)
Kansas City, Missouri
Political party Republican
Spouse(s)
Winifred Pugh
(m. 1928)
Children3
Education Kansas City School of Law (LLB)

Charles Evans Whittaker (February 22, 1901 – November 26, 1973) was an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court from 1957 to 1962. After working in private practice in Kansas City, Missouri, he was nominated for the United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri. In 1956, President Dwight D. Eisenhower nominated Whittaker to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. In 1957, he won confirmation to the Supreme Court of the United States, thus becoming the first individual to serve as a judge on a federal district court, a federal court of appeals, and the United States Supreme Court. During his brief tenure on the Warren Court, Whittaker emerged as a swing vote. In 1962, he suffered a nervous breakdown and resigned from the Court. After leaving the Supreme Court, he served as chief counsel to General Motors and frequently criticized the Civil Rights Movement and the Warren Court.

Contents

Early years and career

Whittaker was born on a farm near Troy, Kansas to Charles Edward Whittaker, a farmer, and Ida Eve Miller, a schoolteacher from Hagerstown, Maryland. He attended the nearby one-room Brush Creek School, and then the Troy High School until he dropped out in the ninth grade after his mother died on his sixteenth birthday. He spent the next three years working on a family farm, and also hunting and trapping. Whittaker developed an interest in law by reading newspaper articles about criminal trials. In the summer of 1920, he applied to the part-time evening program at the Kansas City School of Law (currently the University of Missouri–Kansas City School of Law) and gained admission with the condition that he would finish his high school education after personally pleading with Oliver Dean, a president of the law school. Immediately, he enrolled at Manual High School in Kansas City, Missouri. He spent the next four years working during the day to support himself, and in the evenings was taking high school courses as well as classes at the Kansas City School of Law. While Whittaker was a student at the school, future President Harry S. Truman was a classmate. Whittaker graduated in the class of 1924 with a Bachelor of Laws having been admitted to the Missouri bar during his senior year. [1] [2] Whittaker joined the law firm of Watson, Ess, Marshall & Enggas in Kansas City, Missouri, where he previously worked full-time as an office boy, and built up a practice in corporate law with the Union Pacific Railroad, Montgomery Ward, and the City National Bank and Trust Company among his clients. He developed close ties to the Republican Party.

Federal judicial service (District Court and Court of Appeals)

Whittaker was nominated by President Dwight D. Eisenhower on May 11, 1954, to a seat on the United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri vacated by Judge Albert L. Reeves. He was confirmed by the United States Senate on July 7, 1954, and received his commission the next day. His service terminated on June 21, 1956, due to his elevation to the Eighth Circuit. [2]

Whittaker was nominated by President Eisenhower on March 16, 1956, to a seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit vacated by Judge John Caskie Collet. He was confirmed by the Senate on June 4, 1956, and received his commission the next day. His service terminated on March 24, 1957, due to his elevation to the Supreme Court. [2]

Supreme Court

Whittaker was nominated by President Eisenhower on March 2, 1957, to a seat on the Supreme Court of the United States vacated by Associate Justice Stanley Forman Reed. He was confirmed by the Senate on March 19, 1957, received his commission on March 22, 1957, and took the oath on March 25, 1957. [2] Whittaker thus became the first person to serve as a judge of a United States District Court, a United States Court of Appeals, and the Supreme Court of the United States. Justice Samuel Blatchford also served at all three levels of the federal judiciary, but the court system was configured slightly differently at that time. Justice Sonia Sotomayor is the most recent Justice to have served in all three levels of the federal judiciary. Whittaker was one of the four Republicans appointed to the court by Eisenhower (along with Earl Warren, John M. Harlan II, and Potter Stewart). Eisenhower appointed one Democrat, William J. Brennan, to the Court. [3] Whittaker served as Circuit Justice of the Eighth Circuit and the Tenth Circuit for his duration of service on the Supreme Court. He assumed senior status due to a certified disability on March 31, 1962. His service terminated on September 30, 1965, due to his resignation. [2]

Judicial philosophy

On the closely divided Supreme Court, Whittaker was a swing vote. According to Professor Howard Ball, Whittaker was an "extremely weak, vacillating justice" who was "courted by the two cliques on the Court because his vote was generally up in the air and typically went to the group that made the last, but not necessarily the best, argument." [4] Whittaker failed to develop a consistent judicial philosophy and reportedly felt himself not as qualified as some of the other members of the court. After agonizing deeply for months over his vote in Baker v. Carr , a landmark reapportionment case, Whittaker suffered a nervous breakdown in the spring of 1962. At the behest of Chief Justice Earl Warren, Whittaker recused himself from the case and retired from the Court effective March 31, 1962, citing exhaustion from the heavy workload and stress. [3]

Final years

Effective September 30, 1965, Whittaker resigned his position as a retired Justice in order to become chief counsel to General Motors. He also became a resolute critic of the Warren Court as well as the Civil Rights Movement, characterizing the civil disobedience of the type practiced by Martin Luther King Jr. and his followers as lawless. He wrote a piece for the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin that advised protesters to use courts instead of taking to the streets. [5] Whittaker died on November 26, 1973 at St. Luke's Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri of a ruptured abdominal aneurysm. [6] [7]

Family

In 1928, Whittaker married Winifred R. Pugh. They had three sons: Dr. Charles Keith Whittaker, a neurosurgeon; Kent E. Whittaker, an attorney; and Gary T. Whittaker, a stockbroker.

Legacy and honors

The federal courthouse in downtown Kansas City, Missouri, which houses the United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri, is named in memory of Whittaker.

See also

Related Research Articles

Earl Warren 14th Chief Justice of the United States

Earl Warren was an American politician and jurist who served as 30th governor of California from 1943 to 1953 and Chief Justice of the United States from 1953 to 1969. The "Warren Court" presided over a major shift in American constitutional jurisprudence, which has been recognized by many as a "Constitutional Revolution" in the liberal direction, with Warren writing the majority opinions in landmark cases such as Brown v. Board of Education (1954), Reynolds v. Sims (1964), Miranda v. Arizona (1966) and Loving v. Virginia (1967). Warren also led the Warren Commission, a presidential commission that investigated the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy. He is the last chief justice to have served in an elected office before entering the Supreme Court, and is generally considered to be one of the most influential Supreme Court justices and political leaders in the history of the United States.

Warren E. Burger 15th Chief Justice of the United States

Warren Earl Burger was the 15th Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, serving from 1969 to 1986. Born in Saint Paul, Minnesota, Burger graduated from the St. Paul College of Law in 1931. He helped secure the Minnesota delegation's support for Dwight D. Eisenhower at the 1952 Republican National Convention. After Eisenhower won the 1952 presidential election, he appointed Burger to the position of Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Civil Division. In 1956, Eisenhower appointed Burger to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Burger served on this court until 1969 and became known as a critic of the Warren Court.

United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit Current United States federal appellate court

The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit is a United States federal court with appellate jurisdiction over the following United States district courts:

United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit Current United States federal appellate court

The United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit is a federal court with appellate jurisdiction over the district courts in the following districts:

Potter Stewart United States Supreme Court justice

Potter Stewart was an American lawyer and judge who served as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court from 1958 to 1981. During his tenure, he made, among other areas, major contributions to criminal justice reform, civil rights, access to the courts, and Fourth Amendment jurisprudence.

Harold Hitz Burton United States federal judge

Harold Hitz Burton was an American politician and lawyer. He served as the 45th mayor of Cleveland, Ohio, as a U.S. Senator from Ohio, and as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.

Fred M. Vinson 13th Chief Justice of the United States

Frederick Moore Vinson was an American lawyer and Democratic politician. One of the few Americans to have served in all three branches of the U.S. government, Vinson served as a U.S. Representative from Kentucky from 1924 to 1928 and 1930 to 1938, as a federal appellate judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit from 1938 to 1943, as U.S. Secretary of the Treasury from 1945 to 1946, and as Chief Justice of the United States from 1946 until his death in 1953.

David Josiah Brewer American judge

David Josiah Brewer was an American jurist and an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States for 20 years.

William H. Hastie American judge

William Henry Hastie Jr. was an American lawyer, judge, educator, public official, and civil rights advocate. He was the first African American to serve as Governor of the United States Virgin Islands, as a federal judge, and as a federal appellate judge. He served as a United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit and previously served as District Judge of the District Court of the Virgin Islands.

Howard F. Sachs American judge

Howard Frederic Sachs is a Senior United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri. He also is a former federal judicial nominee to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.

John Robert Gibson was a United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit and a United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri.

University of Missouri–Kansas City School of Law Public law school

The University of Missouri–Kansas City School of Law is a public law school located on the main campus of the University of Missouri-Kansas City in Kansas City, Missouri, near the Country Club Plaza.

Although he was president for less than three years, John F. Kennedy appointed two men to the Supreme Court of the United States: Byron White and Arthur Goldberg. Given the advanced age of Associate Justice Felix Frankfurter at the time of Kennedy's inauguration, speculation abounded over potential Kennedy nominations to the Supreme Court from the start of his presidency.

Charles Breckenridge Faris American judge

Charles Breckenridge Faris was a United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit and a United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri.

Floyd Robert Gibson was a United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit and was previously a United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri.

Elmo Bolton Hunter was a United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri.

Edward Terry Sanford American judge

Edward Terry Sanford was an American jurist who served as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court from 1923 until his death in 1930. Prior to his nomination to the high court, Sanford served as a United States Assistant Attorney General under President Theodore Roosevelt from 1905 to 1907, and as a United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee and the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee from 1908 to 1923. As of 2021, he is the last sitting district court judge to be elevated directly to the Supreme Court.

During his two terms in office, President Dwight D. Eisenhower appointed five members of the Supreme Court of the United States: Chief Justice Earl Warren, and Associate Justices John Marshall Harlan, William Brennan, Charles Evans Whittaker, and Potter Stewart.

References

  1. Smith, Craig A. Failing Justice: Charles Evans Whittaker on the Supreme Court. Jefferson, N.C: McFarland & Company, 2005.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 https://www.fjc.gov/history/judges/whittaker-charles-evans
  3. 1 2 "Whittaker is leaving U.S. Supreme Court", Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 30 March 1962
  4. Ball, Howard. Hugo L. Black: Cold Steel Warrior, Oxford University Press. 2006. ISBN   0-19-507814-4. Page 126.
  5. Urofsky, Melvin I. The Supreme Court Justices: A Biographical Dictionary. New York: Garland Pub, 1994.
  6. "Charles Whittaker dies; On top court", Youngstown Vindicator, 27 November 1973
  7. "Former Justice Whittaker of Supreme Court is dead," The New York Times, November 27, 1973.

Further reading

Legal offices
Preceded by
Albert L. Reeves
Judge of the United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri
1954–1956
Succeeded by
Randle Jasper Smith
Preceded by
John Caskie Collet
Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
1956–1957
Succeeded by
Marion Charles Matthes
Preceded by
Stanley Forman Reed
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States
1957–1962
Succeeded by
Byron White