- Van Devanter, Willis
- (1859-1941)Willis Van Devanter was born in Marion, Indiana. He graduated from Cincinnati Law School in 1881 and moved to Wyoming, where he established a legal practice and rose as an important member of the Republican Party in state politics. He was a member of the Territorial Legislature, chair of the Judiciary Committee, and in 1889 was appointed chief justice of the Territorial Supreme Court. When Wyoming achieved statehood, Van Devanter became the first chief justice of the state Supreme Court but resigned to pursue his private practice.In 1897, Van Devanter was appointed assistant U.S. attorney general in the Department of the Interior and also taught law at George Washington Law School. In 1910, President William Howard Taft appointed Van Devanter to the Supreme Court, where he became a strong defender of business interests and upholder of laissez faire principles. He was one of the conservatives who consistently ruled against progressive welfare measures in the 1920s. However, he did contribute to the 1925 Judiciary Act improving the efficiency of the court.During the 1930s, Van Devanter was, with James McReynolds, George Sutherland, and Pierce Butler, one of the “Four Horsemen” who consistently ruled against President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal measures. He continued to express dissent even after Roosevelt’s “court packing” attempt had failed and even though the court began reversing previous anti-New Deal decisions. In 1937, Van Devanter retired and became a judge on the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of New York.
Historical Dictionary of the Roosevelt–Truman Era . Neil A. Wynn . 2015.