John W. Dwinelle

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John W. Dwinelle
John W. Dwinelle.jpg
John W. Dwinelle, date unknown
Born (1816-09-09)September 9, 1816
Cazenovia, New York
Died January 28, 1881(1881-01-28) (aged 64)
Port Costa, California
Nationality American

John Whipple Dwinelle (September 9, 1816 – January 28, 1881)[1][2] was an American lawyer and politician. He served in a number of political posts in California and played important roles in both the legal history of San Francisco and the establishment of the California public university system.

Dwinelle was born in Cazenovia, New York, the son of Congressman Justin Dwinell and Louise Whipple, a descendant of William Whipple. He graduated from Hamilton College in 1834. While studying law, he edited the New York Daily Gazette, the Daily Buffalonian, and edited and typeset the Rochester Daily Advertiser. Dwinelle was admitted to the bar in October 1837 and began a legal practice in Rochester, New York. In 1844 he was elected city attorney of Rochester. The next year he became master of chancery. [1][2][3][4]

In 1849, he sailed to San Francisco, California, and began a legal practice there. He served in a number of government offices, including two terms on the San Francisco city council, Mayor of Oakland, California, and member of the California State Assembly from Alameda County, California.[2][3]

Dwinelle represented the city of San Francisco in the so-called "pueblo case", Hart v. Burnett, which secured San Francisco's claim to four square leagues of land due to the city's establishment as the pueblo of Yerba Buena under Mexican rule.[5] Dwinelle's lengthy brief on these matters of land usage and history were published as The Colonial History of San Francisco (1863).[6]

Dwinelle was also the lawyer in an important court case regarding school segregation. In Ward v. Flood (1874), he represented a black child who was refused enrollment at a San Francisco school. The Supreme Court of California ruled that black students could not be refused education under the Fourteenth Amendment, but that they could be denied entry into specific schools on the basis of race. This upheld the legal principle of "separate but equal" many years before the legal doctrine was adopted by the United States Supreme Court in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896). While this ruling did not desegregate California schools, it did guarantee the right of black students to an education.[7]

As an Assemblyman, Dwinelle wrote and introduced the 1868 Organic Act establishing the University of California.[8] Dwinelle became one of the first Regents of the University of California. Dwinelle Hall at University of California, Berkeley, the first campus opened as a result of Dwinelle's bill, is named for him.[9]

While trying to catch a ferry, Dwinelle fell from a pier in Port Costa, California, and drowned.[1] His body washed ashore three weeks later.[4]


  1. ^ a b c "THE LATE MR. DWINELLE". New York Times. 12 Feb 1881. p. 8. 
  2. ^ a b c "Class of 1834". Hamilton Literary Magazine. Courier Press. 1882. pp. 365–66. Retrieved 20 June 2013. 
  3. ^ a b Guinn, J. M. (1907). History of the state of California and biographical record to Oakland and environs, also containing biographies of well-known citizens of the past and present. pp. 467–8. 
  4. ^ a b Brown, Alexandria (2011-11-29). "Finding aid of the John Whipple Dwinelle Papers C058835" (PDF). Society of California Pioneers. Retrieved 2013-06-20. 
  5. ^ Donald Louis Stelluto, Jr. (2000). "The Fate of Pueblo Rights in Nineteenth-Century San Francisco". In Gordon Morris Bakken. Law in the Western United States. University of Oklahoma Press. pp. 317–25. ISBN 978-0-8061-3215-0. Retrieved 25 June 2013. 
  6. ^ Franklin Tuthill (1866). The History of California. H. H. Bancroft. p. 107. Retrieved 25 June 2013. 
  7. ^ Charles Wollenberg (1976). All Deliberate Speed: Segregation and Exclusion in California Schools, 1855-1975. University of California Press. pp. 22–24. ISBN 978-0-520-03191-3. Retrieved 20 June 2013. 
  8. ^ John Aubrey Douglass (January 2007). The California Idea and American Higher Education: 1850 to the 1960 Master Plan. Stanford University Press. pp. 42–3. ISBN 978-0-8047-5753-9. Retrieved 25 June 2013. 
  9. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-05-10. Retrieved 2013-07-10. 

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