William O. Douglas was appointed to the United States Supreme Court at the age of 40, the second youngest in history. He served longer on the Supreme Court and wrote more opinions than anyone else. Born in Maine, Minnesota, on October 16, 1898, Douglas received his bachelor`s degree from Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington, in 1920, and his law degree from Columbia in 1925. He joined the Wall Street law firm of Cravath, De Gersdorff, Swaine, and Wood, which specialized in corporate finance. First at Columbia and then Yale, Douglas taught in law schools before joining the Securities and Exchange Commission in 1934. During his tenure on the Supreme Court, Douglas used his financial expertise to help him decide important antitrust and rate-setting cases. When the Supreme Court in 1947 rejected the Justice Department`s assertion that the purchase of Columbia Steel by US Steel violated anti-trust law, Douglas dissented. He wrote the opinion in 1949 that invalidated Standard Oil of California`s arrangement for "exclusive dealer" operations in service stations.
However, Douglas was best known for his vigorous defense of civil liberties and opposition to all forms of censorship. Conservatives considered him a bete noire and during the 91st Congress, an attempt to impeach him was mounted unsuccessfully. Douglas left the court in 1975 and died in 1980.