William Henry Moody

Last updated
William Moody
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States
In office
December 12, 1906 November 20, 1910 [1]
Nominated by Theodore Roosevelt
Preceded by Henry Brown
Succeeded by Joseph Lamar
United States Attorney General
In office
July 1, 1904 December 12, 1906
President Theodore Roosevelt
Preceded by Philander Knox
Succeeded by Charles Bonaparte
United States Secretary of the Navy
In office
May 1, 1902 June 30, 1904
President Theodore Roosevelt
Preceded by John Davis Long
Succeeded by Paul Morton
Member of the U.S.HouseofRepresentatives
from Massachusetts's 6th district
In office
November 5, 1895 May 1, 1902
Preceded by William Cogswell
Succeeded by Augustus Peabody Gardner
Personal details
William Henry Moody

(1853-12-23)December 23, 1853
Newbury, Massachusetts, U.S.
DiedJuly 2, 1917(1917-07-02) (aged 63)
Haverhill, Massachusetts, U.S.
Political party Republican
Education Harvard University (BA)

William Henry Moody (December 23, 1853 – July 2, 1917) was an American politician and jurist, who held positions in all three branches of the Government of the United States.

United States Federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country comprising 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe's 3.9 million square miles. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the largest city by population is New York City. Forty-eight states and the capital's federal district are contiguous in North America between Canada and Mexico. The State of Alaska is in the northwest corner of North America, bordered by Canada to the east and across the Bering Strait from Russia to the west. The State of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific Ocean. The U.S. territories are scattered about the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, stretching across nine official time zones. The extremely diverse geography, climate, and wildlife of the United States make it one of the world's 17 megadiverse countries.

Jurist legal scholar or academic, a professional who studies, teaches, and develops law

A jurist is someone who researches and studies jurisprudence. Such a person can work as an academic, legal writer or law lecturer. In the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and in many other Commonwealth countries, the word jurist sometimes refers to a barrister, whereas in the United States of America and Canada it often refers to a judge.


Early life

Moody was born in Newbury, Massachusetts, the son of Henry Lord Moody and Melissa Augusta (Emerson) Moody. His father owned and managed several farms, and Moody attended the local schools of Newbury, Salem, and Danvers. He graduated from Phillips Academy in 1872 and Harvard University, Phi Beta Kappa in 1876. [2] After four months attending Harvard Law School, he began to study law in the office of Richard Henry Dana, Jr., and attained admission to the bar in 1878.

Newbury, Massachusetts Town in Massachusetts, United States

Newbury is a town in Essex County, Massachusetts, USA. The population was 6,666 at the 2010 census. Newbury includes the villages of Old Town, Plum Island and Byfield. Each village is a precinct with its own voting district, various town offices, and business center.

Phillips Academy independent boarding preparatory school in grades 9–12 in Andover, Massachusetts, United States

Phillips Academy Andover is a co-educational university-preparatory school for boarding and day students in grades 9–12, along with a post-graduate (PG) year. The school is in Andover, Massachusetts, United States, 25 miles north of Boston. Phillips Academy has 1,150 students, and is a highly selective school, accepting 13% of applicants with a yield as high as 86%. It is part of the Eight Schools Association, Ten Schools Admissions Organization as well as the G20 Schools Group.

Harvard University private research university in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States

Harvard University is a private Ivy League research university in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with about 6,700 undergraduate students and about 15,250 postgraduate students. Established in 1636 and named for its first benefactor, clergyman John Harvard, Harvard is the United States' oldest institution of higher learning. Its history, influence, and wealth have made it one of the world's most prestigious universities.

Start of career

Early in his legal career, Moody first was elected city solicitor of Haverhill, Massachusetts in 1888. After appointment as the District Attorney for Eastern Massachusetts in 1890, he gained widespread notoriety in 1893 as the junior prosecutor in the Lizzie Borden murder case. While his efforts were unsuccessful he was generally acknowledged as the most competent and effective of the attorneys on either side.

Haverhill, Massachusetts City in Massachusetts, United States

Haverhill is a historic city in Essex County, Massachusetts, United States. Haverhill is located 35 miles north of Boston on the New Hampshire border and about 17 miles from the Atlantic Ocean. The population was 60,879 at the 2010 census.

Lizzie Borden murder trial defendant

Lizzie Andrew Borden was an American woman who garnered notoriety as the main suspect in the August 4, 1892 axe murders of her father and stepmother in Fall River, Massachusetts. Borden was tried and acquitted of the murders.

U.S. Congress

He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from Massachusetts, and served from 1895 until 1902. He served on the powerful Appropriations Committee, and also held seats on Insular Affairs, Expenditures in the Department of Justice, and the Joint Commission on the Transportation of the Mails. He was a candidate to succeed Thomas B. Reed as Speaker in 1899, but the post was won by David B. Henderson.

Massachusetts State of the United States of America

Massachusetts, officially the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, is the most populous state in the New England region of the northeastern United States. It borders on the Atlantic Ocean to the east, the states of Connecticut and Rhode Island to the south, New Hampshire and Vermont to the north, and New York to the west. The state is named after the Massachusett tribe, which once inhabited the east side of the area, and is one of the original thirteen states. The capital of Massachusetts is Boston, which is also the most populous city in New England. Over 80% of Massachusetts's population lives in the Greater Boston metropolitan area, a region influential upon American history, academia, and industry. Originally dependent on agriculture, fishing and trade, Massachusetts was transformed into a manufacturing center during the Industrial Revolution. During the 20th century, Massachusetts's economy shifted from manufacturing to services. Modern Massachusetts is a global leader in biotechnology, engineering, higher education, finance, and maritime trade.

The United States House Committee on Appropriations is a committee of the United States House of Representatives.

Thomas Brackett Reed U.S. Representative from Maine, and Speaker of the House

Thomas Brackett Reed, occasionally ridiculed as Czar Reed, was a U.S. Representative from Maine, and Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1889–1891 and also from 1895–1899. He was a powerful leader of the Republican Party, and during his tenure as Speaker of the House, he served with greater influence than any Speaker who came before, and he forever increased its power and influence for those who succeeded him in the position.

Secretary of the Navy

During President Theodore Roosevelt's administration, Moody served as the Secretary of Navy from 1902 to 1904. He oversaw the start of the Roosevelt-era expansion of the Navy, including an increase in the number of ships, as well as an effort to increase manpower by improving efforts to recruit sailors from non-coastal states. Moody also negotiated with the government of Cuba for the original lease that permitted construction and occupation of the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base.

Theodore Roosevelt 26th president of the United States

Theodore Roosevelt Jr. was an American statesman, politician, conservationist, naturalist, and writer who served as the 26th president of the United States from 1901 to 1909. He previously served as the 25th vice president of the United States from March to September 1901 and as the 33rd governor of New York from 1899 to 1900. As a leader of the Republican Party during this time, he became a driving force for the Progressive Era in the United States in the early 20th century. His face is depicted on Mount Rushmore, alongside those of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln. In polls of historians and political scientists, Roosevelt is generally ranked as one of the five best presidents.

Guantanamo Bay Naval Base Military base of the United States Navy

Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, officially known as Naval Station Guantanamo Bay or NSGB, is a United States military base and detention camp located on 120 square kilometers (45 sq mi) of land and water at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, which the U.S. leased for use as a coaling station and naval base in 1903. The lease was $2,000 in gold per year until 1934, when the payment was set to match the value in gold in dollars; in 1974, the yearly lease was set to $4,085. The base is on the shore of Guantánamo Bay at the southeastern end of Cuba. It is the oldest overseas U.S. Naval Base. Since the Cuban Revolution of 1959, the Cuban government has consistently protested against the U.S. presence on Cuban soil and called it illegal under international law, alleging that the base was imposed on Cuba by force.

U.S. Attorney General

Moody served as Attorney General from 1904 to 1906. In this post, Moody actively followed Roosevelt's trust-busting policies, negotiating with 'good' trusts like U.S. Steel but prosecuting 'bad' ones like Standard Oil. After failing to convince William Howard Taft to take the seat, on December 3, 1906, Roosevelt nominated Moody as an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court and Moody was confirmed on December 12, 1906. He took his seat on the Court on December 16, 1906. [3] [4]

William Howard Taft 27th president of the United States

William Howard Taft was the 27th president of the United States (1909–1913) and the tenth chief justice of the United States (1921–1930), the only person to have held both offices. Taft was elected president in 1908, the chosen successor of Theodore Roosevelt, but was defeated for re-election by Woodrow Wilson in 1912 after Roosevelt split the Republican vote by running as a third-party candidate. In 1921, President Warren G. Harding appointed Taft to be chief justice, a position in which he served until a month before his death.

U.S. Supreme Court

Moody's service on the Court was brief but eventful, and he authored 67 opinions and five dissents. His most noted opinion was in the minority in Employers Liability Cases (1908), where he held that Congress' power to regulate interstate commerce included the ability to legislate management's relationship with employees. While he generally supported enhanced federal powers, opinions as Twining v. New Jersey (1908), where he held that the Fifth Amendment's protection against compulsory self-incrimination did not apply to cases presented in state courts, made him hard to pigeonhole. He also wrote for a unanimous court in the famous case of Louisville & Nashville Railroad Co. v. Mottley , which limited federal question jurisdiction to cases in which the plaintiff's cause of action was based on federal law.

By 1908, Moody suffered severe rheumatism. This affected Moody to such an extent that his last sitting on the bench was May 7, 1909, when he left for a brief rest and never returned. With the age- and health-enfeebled Supreme Court of 1909 crippled (President William Howard Taft was to make a record-setting five appointments due to death and resignations over a course of a single year in 1910–1911), Taft urged Moody, then the youngest justice at 55, to step down. After Taft successfully lobbied Congress for a Special Act to grant Moody retirement benefits not normally granted unless justices reached age 70 or 10 years of service (enacted June 23, 1910), Moody retired from the Court on November 20, 1910. [5]

Death and burial

Moody was not married, and had no children. He died in Haverhill, Massachusetts on July 2, 1917, and was buried at Byfield Cemetery in Georgetown, Massachusetts.

Awards and honors

In 1904, Moody received the honorary degree of LL.D. from Tufts University and Amherst College.


After Moody's death, some of his official papers were placed in the custody of Professor Felix Frankfurter, then of Harvard Law School. They are now in the collection of Frankfurter's papers in the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress. Moody's office furnishings and papers were donated to the Haverhill Historical Society and there is a Moody Room open to the public at the Buttonwoods Museum in Haverhill that features his personal collection. [6]

USS Moody (DD-277) was named for him.

In 2018, television and film actor Jay Huguley portrayed Moody in Lizzie, a biographical thriller film about Lizzie Borden.


  1. "Federal Judicial Center: William Henry Moody". 2009-12-11. Archived from the original on 2009-05-13. Retrieved 2009-12-11.
  2. Supreme Court Justices Who Are Phi Beta Kappa Members, Phi Beta Kappa website, accessed Oct 4, 2009
  3. HarpWeek: Cartoon of the Day at www.harpweek.com
  4. "Biographical Directory of the United States Congress". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved September 11, 2018.
  5. The Supreme Court Historical Society Archived 2005-09-03 at the Wayback Machine at www.supremecourthistory.org
  6. www.buttonwoods.org

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U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
William Cogswell
Member of the  U.S. House of Representatives
from Massachusetts's 6th congressional district

Succeeded by
Augustus Gardner
Political offices
Preceded by
John Long
United States Secretary of the Navy
Succeeded by
Paul Morton
Legal offices
Preceded by
Philander Knox
United States Attorney General
Succeeded by
Charles Bonaparte
Preceded by
Henry Brown
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States
Succeeded by
Joseph Lamar