William Robinson Pattangall

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Hon.
William Robinson Pattangall
William Robinson Pattangall.jpg
Chief Justice of the
Maine Supreme Judicial Court
In office
February 7, 1930 – July 16, 1935
Appointed by William Tudor Gardiner
Preceded by Luere B. Deasy
Succeeded by Charles J. Dunn, Jr.
Associate Justice of the
Maine Supreme Judicial Court
In office
July 2, 1926 – February 7, 1930
Appointed by Owen Brewster
Preceded by Scott Wilson
Succeeded by Sidney St. Felix Thaxter
Maine Attorney General
In office
1911–1913
Preceded by Cyrus R. Tupper
Succeeded by Scott Wilson
17th Mayor
Waterville, Maine
Preceded by Norman K. Fuller
Succeeded by Louis E. Hilliard
Personal details
Born June 29, 1865
Pembroke, Maine
Died October 21, 1942 (aged 77)
Political party Republican
Other political
affiliations
Democratic
Spouse(s) Jean M. Johnson, m. 1884;
Gertrude Helen McKenzie
Profession Lawyer

William Robinson Pattangall (June 29, 1865 - October 21, 1942) was a Maine politician, particularly known for his support of public schools and opposition to the Ku Klux Klan.[1] He was later the Chief Justice of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court retiring on July 16, 1935.[2]

Early Political Career[edit]

He was born on June 29, 1865 in Pembroke, Maine, a coastal town east of Bangor. Pattangall married Jean M. Johnson in 1884 and later Gertrude Helen McKenzie (1874–1950) in 1892. A Democrat in what was then a staunchly Republican state, he became Mayor of Waterville,[3] a member of the Maine House of Representatives (1897–1911), and then Maine's Attorney General (1911–1913). Pattangall was a strong Wilsonian and proponent of civil rights.

As a state legislator, Pattangall fought for a provision from 1909 to 1911 doubling the amount of state tax money dedicated to Maine schools. Passed in 1911, the law was then brought before the Maine Supreme Judicial Court as unconstitutional. Pattangall, now Attorney General, argued in its favor and prevailed.[4]

Opposition to the Ku Klux Klan[edit]

Main article: Ku Klux Klan in Maine

Pattangall was the Democratic candidate for Governor of Maine in 1922 and 1924 but lost both times. The second race was against Republican Owen Brewster, who was supported by the Ku Klux Klan. Pattangall made Brewster's Klan support the centerpiece of the campaign. Although this was not a winning strategy, it helped set the stage for a split within the Maine Republican Party around the issue of Klan support, resulting in the election of anti-Klan (and anti-Brewster) Republican Senator Arthur R. Gould in 1926.

Pattangall also fought the Klan element in his own party. As a delegate to the Democratic National Convention of 1924, in New York, he proposed inserting an anti-Klan plank into the party platform, despite the presence of an estimated 300 Klansmen in the hall. The attempt caused the "hissing and booing of Klansmen along with fist fights, chair tossing, and destruction of convention decorations". Opposed by William Jennings Bryan and other party leaders, the plank was voted down, and with it the potential presidential candidacy of Catholic Al Smith. Smith's supporters would be more successful at the subsequent Democratic convention, however, by which time the Klan had seriously weakened as a political force.[5]

Pattengall was a gifted and entertaining orator, well known for his caustic wit. This is exemplified in his volume "Meddybemps Letters" that included a "Hall of Fame" with bitterly satiric biographies of the leading Republicans of the time. Pattangall was never elected to national office, however, due to what he characterized as "Democratic treachery."

Judgeship and Defection to the Republican Party[edit]

Pattengall was appointed Associate Justice of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court (by the Republican administration) in 1926, but only broke with his party over President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal, to which he became bitterly opposed. He ultimately joined the Republican Party and soon after was appointed Chief Justice (1930–35). He died on October 21, 1942 in Augusta, Maine.[2][6]


External links[edit]


References[edit]

  1. ^ "Washington Republicans Say It Means Their Party Is Regaining Its Own.". New York Times. September 10, 1913. Retrieved 2009-12-22. There was remarkable divergence of opinion among politicians here to-day regarding the lesson to be drawn from the victory in yesterday's special election in the Third Maine District of John A. Peters, Republican, by a plurality of 589 over William R. Pattangall, Democrat, and 8,616 over Edward M. Lawrence, Progressive. 
  2. ^ a b "Obituary". Chicago Tribune. October 22, 1942. Willlam R. Pattangall, 77 years old, retired chief justice of the Maine Supreme court, died today. Pattangall retired as chief justice July 16, 1935. A powerful speaker and a satiric writer, Judge Pattangall long was a figure in Maine politics, as a Republican and as a Democrat, ... 
  3. ^ History of Mayors City of Waterville, Maine
  4. ^ Lewiston Daily Sun, Aug. 12, 1924
  5. ^ Brian R. Farmer, American Conservatism: History, Theory, and Practice (Newcastle, UK: Cambridge Scholars Press, 2005), p. 210
  6. ^ "Pattangall New Deal Foe Dies In Maine". Associated Press in the Hartford Courant. October 22, 1942. Retrieved 2009-12-22. William R. Pattangall, 77 retired chief justice the Maine Supreme Court, died today. 
Political offices
Preceded by
Luere B. Deasy
Chief Justice of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court
February 7, 1930–July 16, 1935
Succeeded by
Charles J. Dunn, Jr.
Preceded by
Scott Wilson
Associate Justice of the
Maine Supreme Judicial Court

July 2, 1926–February 7, 1930
Succeeded by
Sidney St. Felix Thaxter
Preceded by
Cyrus R. Tupper
Maine Attorney General
1911–1912
Succeeded by
Scott Wilson
Preceded by
Scott Wilson
Maine Attorney General
1915–1916
Succeeded by
Guy H. Sturgis
Preceded by
Norman K. Fuller
17th Mayor of
Waterville, Maine

1911–1913
Succeeded by
Louis E. Hilliard