Edward Douglass White (November 3, 1845 - May 19, 1921)

Edward Douglas WhiteEdward Douglass White, Jr., American politician and jurist, was a United States senator, Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court and the ninth Chief Justice of the United States. He was best known for formulating the Rule of Reason standard of antitrust law. He also sided with the Supreme Court majority in the 1896 decision which upheld the legality of segregation in the United States.

While living on the abandoned plantation, White began his legal studies. He was admitted to the bar and commenced practice in New Orleans in 1868. He briefly served in the Louisiana State Senate in 1874 and as an Associate Justice of the Louisiana Supreme Court from 1879 to 1880. He was politically affiliated with Governor Francis T. Nicholls, a former Confederate general.

The state's legislature appointed White to the United States Senate in 1891 to succeed James B. Eustis. He served until his resignation on March 12, 1894, when he was nominated by President Grover Cleveland (D) to be an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. In 1896 he sided with the seven justices whose majority opinion in Plessy v. Ferguson approved segregation. In 1910, he was elevated by President William Howard Taft to the position of Chief Justice of the United States upon the death of Melville Fuller.

His appointment was controversial for two reasons. First, White was a Democrat while Taft was a Republican. The media of the day widely expected Taft to name Republican Justice Charles Evans Hughes to the post. Second, White was the first Associate Justice to be appointed Chief Justice since John Rutledge in 1795. Some historians believe that President Taft appointed White, who was 65 years old at the time and overweight, in the hope that White would not serve all that long and that Taft himself might someday be appointed — which is just what happened eleven years later.¹

Edward Douglass White Quotes

"The principle that there is a presumption of innocence in favor of the accused is the undoubted law, axiomatic and elementary, and its enforcement lies at the foundation of the administration of our criminal law."
"A reasonable doubt, as that term is employed in the administration of the criminal law, is an honest, substantial misgiving, generated by the proof or the want of it. It is such a state of the proof as fails to convince your judgment and conscience, and satisfy your reason of the guilt of the accused."

"If the whole evidence, when carefully examined, weighed, compared, and considered, produces in your minds a settled conviction or belief of the defendants' guilt -- such an abiding conviction or belief of the defendants' guilt -- such an abiding conviction as you would be willing to act upon in the most weighty and and important affairs of your own life -- you may be said to be free from any reasonable doubt, and should find a verdict in accordance with that conviction or belief."

Noteworthy Sites

"An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest." ~ Benjamin Franklin

read more

If you would like to read more about history, The Chief Justices and the presidents, visit our history bookstore.

... a thousand words

Bring history and education to life with posters and art prints in the following categories:

"To read without reflecting is like eating without digesting." ~ Edmund Burke