by Douglas Scott
November 3 – November 22, 2015 William O. Douglas was one of the most accomplished and controversial justices ever to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. From his childhood in the Cascade Mountains to his accomplishments as a Yale law professor, chairman of the SEC, and as a defender of civil liberties, personal privacy, and the wilderness, he spent life on the edge as an outspoken maverick. But, as he lays on his deathbed, Douglas struggles to find the meaning of his life. Were the sacrifices—his fight against poverty and sickness as a youth, his failures as husband and father—worth making?
Directed by Susan D. Atkinson • Starring Keith Baker
“The play is stirring…remarkable in its ability to juggle ideas, biographical information, great humor and poignant scenes.” –The Daily News
Sponsored by: The Mill Street Cantina
Learn More About William Orville Douglas
“We need to be bold and adventurous in our thinking in order to survive.”
William Orville Douglas was born in 1898 in Minnesota, the son of Julia Bickford (Fisk) and William Douglas. His family moved to California, and then to Cleveland, Washington. His father died when Douglas was six years old. After moving the family from town to town in the West, his mother, with three young children, settled with them in Yakima, Washington. Sickly as a child, his mother encouraged him to be physically active outdoors, and he developed a deep awareness of the environment. He was the valedictorian at Yakima High School and did well enough in school to earn a scholarship to Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington.
Douglas attended Whitman College and taught high school before entering Columbia University’s law program, graduating in the mid-1920s and eventually joining the school’s faculty. He later joined Yale University’s faculty, and by 1937, during the Depression era, became chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission. His SEC post saw Douglas working with President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who nominated the legal expert to the Supreme Court to fill the spot left by Louis Brandeis in early 1939. Douglas was confirmed and took his seat in April of that same year. Douglas established a career that saw him staunchly advocating civil libertarianism, joining friend and ally Justice Hugo Black in championing the Bill of Rights.
Douglas was a self-professed outdoorsman. According to The Thru-Hiker’s Companion, a guide published by the Appalachian Trail Club, Douglas hiked the entire 2,000 miles (3,200 km) trail from Georgia to Maine. His love for the environment carried through to his judicial reasoning. In his autobiographical Of Men and Mountains (1950), Douglas discusses his close childhood connections with nature. He served on the Board of Directors of the Sierra Club from 1960 to 1962 and wrote prolifically on his love of the outdoors. He is credited with saving the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal and inspiring the effort to establish the right-of-way as a national park. Due to Douglas’ active role in advocating the preservation and protection of wilderness across the United States, he was nicknamed “Wild Bill.”
• The 1984 Washington Wilderness Act designated the Cougar Lake Roadless area as the William O. Douglas Wilderness. This wilderness adjoins Mount Rainier National Park in Washington State.
• Douglas Falls in the Blue Ridge Mountains, North Carolina
• Douglas Falls in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina.
• The William O. Douglas Outdoor Classroom in Beverly Hills, California.
• He was elected to the Ecology Hall of Fame for his dedication to conservation.
• The William O Douglas Honors College at Central Washington University in Ellensburg, Washington.
• The William O. Douglas Federal Building, an historic post office, courthouse, and federal office building in Yakima, Washington, which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places, was renamed in his honor in 1978.
Check out the trailer for Mountain – The Journey of Justice Douglas
Behind-the-Curtain of Mountain – The Journey of Justice Douglas
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