William Burnham Woods
|Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States|
December 21, 1880 – May 14, 1887
|Nominated by||Rutherford Hayes|
|Preceded by||William Strong|
|Succeeded by||Lucius Lamar|
|Judge of the United States Circuit Court for the Fifth Circuit|
December 22, 1869 – December 21, 1880
|Nominated by||Ulysses Grant|
|Preceded by||Seat established|
|Succeeded by||Don Pardee|
August 3, 1824|
Newark, Ohio, U.S.
|Died||May 14, 1887
Washington, D.C., U.S.
|Political party||Democratic (Before 1863)
|Alma mater||Case Western Reserve University
Early life and education
Woods was born on August 3, 1824, in Newark, Ohio. He was the older brother of Charles R. Woods, another future Civil War general. He attended college at both Western Reserve University (now Case Western Reserve University) in Hudson, Ohio, before transferring to Yale University, from which he graduated in 1845 with honors.
After graduating he returned home to Newark, Ohio, and studied law by clerking for S. D. King, a prominent local lawyer and was admitted to the bar in 1847. Woods ended up partnering with his mentor, King, and entered into a legal practice together.
He was appointed lieutenant colonel of the 76th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, which served in the Western Theater. He fought at the battles of Shiloh and Vicksburg, and was promoted to brigadier general. Woods commanded a brigade under William T. Sherman during the Atlanta Campaign and a division during Sherman's March to the Sea. During the Carolinas Campaign, he fought with distinction at the Battle of Bentonville. He was appointed a brevet major general in early 1865.
He left the Army in February 1866.
He then served on the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit for 11 years until his nomination to the nation's highest court in 1880.
The Slaughter-House Cases, which "tested the issue of the reach and breadth of the 14th Amendment", were the most important cases he adjudicated on in the lower courts. He found that a state act that created a monopoly in the slaughterhouse business violated the Privileges and Immunities Clause of the new 14th Amendment and therefore was void", but three years later a majority of the Supreme Court reversed his decision in the Slaughter-House Cases. At this point (relatively early in his career), Woods was willing to read the provisions of the 14th Amendment broadly.
U.S. Supreme Court
President Rutherford B. Hayes named Woods to the U.S. Supreme Court on December 21, 1880. He "easily received Senate approval" by a vote of 39 to 8 and took the oath of office on January 5, 1881. Although he was the first person to be named to the Supreme Court from a Confederate state since 1853, but this anomaly was lessened because he was originally a northerner and, by that time, a Republican, so he was palatable to the U.S. Senate's Republican majority.
Woods was not a major contributor to the Court and spent only six years on the bench. He remained on the Court until his death in 1887.
- "William Burnham Woods (Aug. 3, 1824 - May 14, 1887)". The Supreme Court of Ohio & The Ohio Judicial System. Retrieved 6 June 2014.
- "William Burnham Woods". Arnold E. Shaheen, Jr. Attorney At Law. Arnold E. Shaheen, Jr. Attorney At Law. Retrieved 6 June 2014.
|New seat||Judge of the United States Circuit Court for the Fifth Circuit
|Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States