Charles Evans Whittaker
|Charles Evans Whittaker|
|Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court|
March 22, 1957 – March 31, 1962
|Nominated by||Dwight Eisenhower|
|Preceded by||Stanley Forman Reed|
|Succeeded by||Byron White|
February 22, 1901|
|Died||November 26, 1973
Kansas City, Missouri
Charles Evans Whittaker (February 22, 1901 – November 26, 1973) was an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court from 1957 to 1962.
Whittaker was born on a farm near Troy, Kansas, and attended school until he dropped out in the ninth grade. He spent the next two years hunting, trapping and farming, but developed an interest in law by reading newspaper articles about criminal trials. He applied to the Kansas City School of Law (currently the University of Missouri–Kansas City School of Law) and gained admission with the condition that he first acquire a high school education. He spent two years working, and taking high school courses from a private tutor before enrolling. While Whittaker was a student at the school, from 1922 to 1924, future president Harry S. Truman was a classmate. He received his law degree in 1924.
Whittaker joined the law firm of Watson, Ess, Marshall & Enggas in Kansas City, Missouri and built up a practice in corporate law. He had close ties to the Republican party. He was appointed as a federal judge on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri on July 8, 1954. He was nominated to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals on June 5, 1956.
Whittaker developed a good reputation as a judge. Less than a year after being appointed to the court of appeals, he was nominated to be an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, taking the oath on March 25, 1957. Whittaker thus became the first person to serve as a judge of a federal district court, a federal court of appeals, and the US Supreme Court. He was one of four Republicans appointed to the court under Eisenhower, who also appointed a Democrat.
Justice Samuel Blatchford also served at all three levels of the federal judiciary, but the court system was configured slightly differently at that time. Justice Sonia Sotomayor is the most recent Justice to have served in all three levels of the federal judiciary.
On the closely divided Supreme Court, Whittaker was a swing vote. According to Professor Howard Ball, Whittaker was an "extremely weak, vacillating justice" who was "courted by the two cliques on the Court because his vote was generally up in the air and typically went to the group that made the last, but not necessarily the best, argument."
Whittaker failed to develop a consistent judicial philosophy, and reportedly felt himself not as qualified as some of the other members of the court. After agonizing deeply for months over his vote in Baker v. Carr, a landmark reapportionment case, Whittaker suffered a nervous breakdown in the spring of 1962. At the behest of Chief Justice Earl Warren, Whittaker recused himself from the case and retired from the Court effective March 31, 1962, citing exhaustion from the heavy workload and stress.
Effective September 30, 1965, Whittaker resigned his position as a retired Justice in order to become chief counsel to General Motors. He also became a resolute critic of the Warren Court as well as the Civil Rights Movement, characterizing the civil disobedience of the type practiced by Martin Luther King, Jr. and his followers as lawless. Like many conservatives, he criticized the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as unconstitutional.
Whittaker died in 1973 at St. Luke's Hospital in Kansas City of a ruptured abdominal aneurysm. He was survived by his wife, Winifred (Pugh), and three sons, Dr. Charles Keith Whittaker, a neurosurgeon; Kent E. Whittaker, an attorney; and Gary T. Whittaker, a stockbroker.
Legacy and honors
The federal courthouse in downtown Kansas City, Missouri, which houses the United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri, is named in memory of Whittaker.
- "Federal Judicial Center: Charles Whittaker". December 12, 2009. Retrieved December 12, 2009.
- "Whittaker is leaving U.S. Supreme Court", Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 30 March 1962
- Ball, Howard. Hugo L. Black: Cold Steel Warrior, Oxford University Press. 2006. ISBN 0-19-507814-4. Page 126.
- The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
- "Charles Whittaker dies; On top court", Youngstown Vindicator, 27 November 1973
- "Former Justice Whittaker of Supreme Court is dead", The New York Times, November 27, 1973.
- Smith, Craig Alan (2005). Failing Justice: Charles Evans Whittaker On The Supreme Court. McFarland & Company.
- Abraham, Henry J., Justices and Presidents: A Political History of Appointments to the Supreme Court. 3d. ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992). ISBN 0-19-506557-3.
- Cushman, Clare, The Supreme Court Justices: Illustrated Biographies,1789–1995 (2nd ed.) (Supreme Court Historical Society), (Congressional Quarterly Books, 2001) ISBN 1-56802-126-7; ISBN 978-1-56802-126-3.
- Frank, John P., The Justices of the United States Supreme Court: Their Lives and Major Opinions (Leon Friedman and Fred L. Israel, editors) (Chelsea House Publishers: 1995) ISBN 0-7910-1377-4, ISBN 978-0-7910-1377-9.
- Martin, Fenton S. and Goehlert, Robert U., The U.S. Supreme Court: A Bibliography, (Congressional Quarterly Books, 1990). ISBN 0-87187-554-3.
- Urofsky, Melvin I., The Supreme Court Justices: A Biographical Dictionary (New York: Garland Publishing 1994). 590 pp. ISBN 0-8153-1176-1; ISBN 978-0-8153-1176-8.
|Wikisource has original works written by or about:
Charles Evans Whittaker
-  Papers of Richard Lawrence Miller (materials collected while working on a biography of Supreme Court Justice Charles E. Whittaker), Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library
John Caskie Collet
|Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
Marion Charles Matthes
Stanley Forman Reed
|Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States
March 22, 1957 – March 31, 1962