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Willis Van Devanter, 1911-1937

WILLIS VAN DEVANTER was born on April 17, 1859, in Marion, Indiana. He received a law degree from the University of Cincinnati Law School in 1881 and joined his father’s law firm in Marion. Three years later, Van Devanter moved to Cheyenne, Wyoming Territory, and established his own practice. Van Devanter served as a member of the commission that revised the statutes of the Wyoming Territory in 1886. In 1887, he served as City Attorney of Cheyenne, and in the following year he was elected to the Territorial Legislature. Van Devanter was only thirty years old when, in 1889, President Benjamin Harrison appointed him Chief Justice of the Wyoming Territorial Supreme Court. After Wyoming was admitted to the Union as the forty-fourth State in 1890, Van Devanter resigned as Chief Justice and returned to private practice. In 1897, President William McKinley appointed him an Assistant Attorney General, assigned to the Interior Department. President Theodore Roosevelt appointed him to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit in 1903. President William H. Taft nominated Van Devanter to the Supreme Court of the United States on December 16, 1910. The Senate confirmed the appointment on January 3, 1911. Van Devanter served on the Supreme Court for twenty-six years. He retired on June 2, 1937, and died on February 8, 1941, at the age of eighty-one.

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