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
In 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
Look up William O. Douglas on the Yakima
The Life of William O. Douglas
1898 William Orville Douglas is born to the Reverend
William and Julia Douglas in Maine, Minnesota, on October
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
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
1936 Appointed commissioner of the SEC.
1937 Appointed chairman of the SEC, replacing Joseph
1939 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
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.