Yakima Valley Museum

William O. DouglasWilliam O. Douglas
October 16, 1998, would have been the 100th birthday of former Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas.  For 16 years prior to 1998, the museum has been pleased to display a re-creation of Douglas' Washington, D.C. office; the contents of which were given to the museum following Douglas' death in 1980.  But the office alone does little to explore the Yakima roots of this highly controversial, but exceedingly influential, justice.  Furthermore, the museum owns numerous Douglas items and photographs that had not been exhibited previously.  Accordingly, the museum opened an entirely new exhibition on William O. Douglas, on his 100th birthday in October 1998.  Made possible with the generous assistance of the Yakima County Bar Association, the Yakima Lions Club, the Seafirst Bank Foundation, and several anonymous donors, the new exhibition was relocated within the museum, continues to feature the office, and was expanded to include material about his early life in Yakima, his controversial Supreme Court career, his writings, and his continuing legacy in environmental and civil rights law.

Douglas ExhibitIn preparation for the new exhibition, Central Washington University graduate student and East Valley school teacher Michael Duerre undertook new research in the Museum's Sundquist Research Library's William O. Douglas collection.  Duerre examined existing Douglas biographies and recommended ways in which the new exhibition could accurately interpret the lifelong relationship between Yakima and Douglas.  It is hoped that the new exhibition fairly depicts his lasting influence and the reasons he remains controversial to the present day.

Look up William O. Douglas on the Yakima Memory website.

The Life of William O. Douglas

1898 William Orville Douglas is born to the Reverend William and Julia Douglas in Maine, Minnesota, on October 16.
1901 Three year old "Orville" is stricken with polio. Family moves to Estrella, California.
1903
Family moves to Cleveland, Washington.
1904
Reverend Douglas dies. Family moves to Yakima.
1916
Graduates from Yakima High School as class valedictorian and is awarded a partial scholarship from Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington.
1920
Graduates Phi Beta Kappa from Whitman. Begins teaching English and Latin at Yakima High School.
1922
Enters Columbia Law School in New York City.
1923
Marries Mildred Riddle, a co-worker at Yakima High School.
1925
Graduates second in his class from Columbia. Begins professional career at Wall Street law firm of Cravath, deGersdorff, Swaine, and Wood. Teaches at Columbia on the side.
1926
Briefly returns to Yakima to practice law.
1927
Returns to New York to begin teaching full-time at Columbia Law School.
1928
Accepts a teaching position at Yale University.
1934
Accepts a position with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
1936
Appointed commissioner of the SEC.
1937
Appointed chairman of the SEC, replacing Joseph Kennedy.
Exhibit 21939
Appointed to United States Supreme Court by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to fill the position vacated by Justice Louis D. Brandeis.
1940
Considered by F.D.R. as vice-presidential nominee.
1941
Julia Douglas, his mother, dies.
1944
Again considered for vice-presidential nomination by F.D.R.
1948
Declines invitation of President Harry S. Truman to run for vice-president.
1949
Horseback-riding accident results in twenty three broken ribs and nearly ends Douglas' life.
1952
Considered for Democratic presidential nomination but refuses to run.
1953
Divorces Mildred.
1954
Marries Mercedes Hester Davidson.
Organizes 189-mile hike along the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal towpath to protest a proposed highway along the route; the hike is successful and highway plans are abandoned.
1958
Organizes hike along a secluded and pristine section of beach in Olympic National Park to protest a proposed roadway into the area; the hike is successful and plans are abandoned. Arthur Douglas, his brother, dies.
1963
Divorces Mercedes. Marries Joan Martin.
1966
Divorces Joan. Marries Cathleen Heffernan.
1970
An attempt to impeach Justice William O. Douglas is organized by Representative Gerald Ford.
1974
Suffers a stroke on December 31.
1975
Retires from the Supreme Court on November 12, after more than thirty-six years of service.
1980
Dies at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, on January 19.

 

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