George W. Wickersham

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George Wickersham
George Woodward Wickersham cph.3b30281.jpg
47th United States Attorney General
In office
March 4, 1909 – March 4, 1913
PresidentWilliam Howard Taft
Preceded byCharles Bonaparte
Succeeded byJames McReynolds
Personal details
George Woodward Wickersham

(1858-09-19)September 19, 1858
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.
DiedJanuary 25, 1936(1936-01-25) (aged 77)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
SpouseMildred Wendell
EducationUniversity of Pennsylvania (BA)

George Woodward Wickersham (September 19, 1858 – January 25, 1936) was an American lawyer and Attorney General of the United States in the administration of President William H. Taft. He returned to government to serve in appointed positions under both Republican and Democratic administrations, for Woodrow Wilson and Herbert Hoover. He was President of the Council on Foreign Relations for the latter.[1]


Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1858, Wickersham attended local schools and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. He studied law by "reading," preparing for the bar through an apprenticeship with an established firm. After passing the bar, he set up a practice.

He married Mildred Wendell. They had a son, Cornelius Wendell Wickersham, who later became a lawyer and a US Army Brigadier General.


After several years of practice, in 1883 Wickersham entered the longtime law firm of Strong and Cadwalader in New York City. He became a partner four years later, and the firm was eventually named Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft.[citation needed]

He as appointed to the office of Attorney General of the United States from 1909 to 1913, in the administration of President William Howard Taft. In 1912 Wickersham supported the membership of US Assistant Attorney General William H. Lewis in the American Bar Association, after Southerners protested the African American's presence and the executive committee voted to oust him. Wickersham sent a letter to all 4700 members urging their support for Lewis, who refused to resign.[2][3]

After the election of President Woodrow Wilson in 1912, the Democrat appointed his own people to federal positions. During Wilson's first term, from 1914 to 1916, Wickersham was out of government and served as president of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York.[citation needed] In 1916, Wickersham opposed Wilson’s nomination of Louis Brandeis for the Supreme Court, describing the Jewish nominee’s supporters as "a bunch of Hebrew uplifters."[4]

Soon after the United States entered World War I in 1917, Wickersham was named by President Wilson to serve on the War Trade Board to Cuba.

In 1929, President Herbert Hoover appointed Wickersham to the National Commission on Law Observance and Enforcement, better known as the "Wickersham Commission." (It was described as the "Wickersham Committee" by William L. Marbury, Jr. in a 1935 letter seeking the support of U.S. Senator George L. P. Radcliffe for appointment of Alger Hiss to the U.S. Solicitor General's office; Hiss had served on the committee 1929-1930.[5])

Wickersham did not return to government under Democratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt. He was elected president of a private organization the Council on Foreign Relations, serving from 1933 to 1936.[6]

Personal life and death[edit]

Wickersham married; his son was Cornelius Wendell Wickersham, a lawyer and a US Army Brigadier General.[citation needed]

He lived much of his life in Cedarhurst, New York in the Town of Hempstead, now known as the Village of Lawrence.[citation needed]

Wickersham died in New York City in 1936 and was buried in Brookside Cemetery in Englewood, New Jersey.[7]


Since 1996, the Friends of the Law Library of the Library of Congress have presented an annual award named for Wickersham.[8]


  1. ^ German, 1969.
  2. ^ "Wickersham To Negro's Defense: Opposes Action of Bar Association to Oust Him From Membership". The Duluth News Tribune. March 1, 1912.
  3. ^ "Attorney General Fights for Negro". The Lexington Herald. March 6, 1912.
  4. ^ Afran, Bruce, & Garber, Robert A. (2005). Jews on Trial. pp. 157–158.
  5. ^ Marbury, William L. (July 30, 1935). "Personal letter to the Honorable George L. Radcliffe". Maryland Historical Society. Retrieved February 16, 2017.
  6. ^ History of CFR – Council on Foreign Relations
  7. ^ George Woodward Wickersham, The Political Graveyard. Accessed August 22, 2007.
  8. ^ "The Wickersham Award". Library of Congress. February 28, 2014. Retrieved February 16, 2017.

Further reading[edit]

  • German Jr, James Clifford. "Taft's attorney general: George W. Wickersham" (PhD dissertation, New York University, 1969).  ProQuest Dissertations Publishing, 1969. 7016064.
  • Bringhurst, Bruce Robert. "ANTITRUST AND THE OIL MONOPOLY: THE STANDARD OIL CASES, 1890-1911" (PhD dissertation, The Claremont Graduate University, 1976) ProQuest Dissertations Publishing,  1976. 7623920..

Primary sources[edit]

  • George W. Wickersham. "Recent Interpretation of the Sherman Act" Michigan Law Review , Nov., 1911, Vol. 10, No. 1 (Nov., 1911), pp. 1-25 online

External links[edit]

Legal offices
Preceded by U.S. Attorney General
Served under: William Howard Taft

March 4, 1909–March 4, 1913
Succeeded by