Columbians Ahead of Their Time
 William Orville Douglas
William Orville Douglas "The critical point is that the Constitution places the right of silence beyond the reach of government."

William Orville Douglas (1898–1980)
Law 1925
Faculty 1927-28
LLD 1979 (hon.)

A passionate supporter of the Bill of Rights and a staunch defender of civil liberties, William O. Douglas served on the Supreme Court for 36 years and seven months, longer than any other justice. In addition to championing the rights of privacy, free speech, and the environment, he authored several books on business law, American law, and civil rights, including We The Judges (1956) and A Living Bill of Rights (1961). Raised in Washington state, Douglas was also an avid naturalist who wrote many books on the subject, among them Men and Mountains (1950), Russian Journey (1956), My Wilderness (1962), and The Three Hundred Year War: A Chronicle of Ecological Disaster (1972).

After receiving his Columbia law degree in 1925, Douglas joined a major New York City law firm (now Cravath, Swaine & Moore) after failing to obtain a clerkship with Supreme Court Associate Justice Harlan F. Stone, the former dean of the Law School. Douglas went on to teach law at Columbia for a year before decamping for Yale, where he became known for his studies in bankruptcy and reorganization. That led to an appointment to the Securities and Exchange Commission in 1934. Three years later, he became SEC chair, a post he held until his ascension to the Supreme Court in 1939.

Read about Douglas in the Columbia Encyclopedia.
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