Edward D. White (1845-1921)
Douglass White was born in Louisiana on November 3, 1845. He was born into wealth
and privilege. His father owned a large sugar plantation, and his family
was a slaveholding family. His father was also active in politics in
Louisiana, serving as a judge, governor, and United States
representative. White, a Roman Catholic, was educated at Mount St.
Mary's College in Maryland and Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.
He joined the Confederate Army during the Civil War, and was a prisoner
of war. White read law in New Orleans after the War. White worked to end
Reconstruction in Louisiana (he was a "Redeemer" in white southern
terminology), and in 1878, was named to the Louisiana Supreme Court. Two
years later, his patron lost the governorship, and White was ousted from
the Court. After eight successful years in the practice of law, White's
patron Francis T. Nicholls was elected Governor, and White was appointed
to the Senate to fill a vacancy. He spent three years in the Senate, and
was nominated to the Court to take the seat of
Samuel Blatchford. White joined a Court that was worried about the
changes in population, economy, and culture that were transforming the
United States. As a sugar man, White joined the majority in declaring
the Sherman Antitrust Act inapplicable to a sugar manufacturing monopoly
United States v. E.C. Knight. He dissented in the
Tax Cases, which is not surprising considering that he voted to
adopt the income tax as a Senator the year before (whether White should
have recused himself is more a question of today's ethical concerns than
those of the late 19th century). In general, White joined the Court's
opinions concerning substantive due process, and was skeptical of
progressive legislative reform measures.
In 1910, Melville Fuller died. President William Howard Taft decided to nominate White as Chief Justice, and to nominate Willis Van Devanter to take White's associate justice seat. White became the first associate justice to be appointed Chief Justice.
In one of his first opinions as Chief Justice, White authored the Court's decision in Standard Oil Co. v. United States (1911), which interpreted the Sherman Antitrust Act through a "rule of reason."
On May 19, 1921, White died. He was replaced on the Court by the man who had nominated him to the post, William Howard Taft.
In 1894, White was married to Virginia Montgomery Kent.