About William O. Douglas

Justice William O. DouglasWilliam O. Douglas was born in Minnesota, raised in Yakima, Washington, was a 1920 honors graduate of Whitman College and received a law degree from Columbia University.

After some experience in law and teaching at Yale, and while in a promising career in government (he was a Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission), he was appointed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to fill the U.S. Supreme Court seat vacated by Louis Brandeis in 1939.

William O. Douglas served on the Court from 1939-1975. He was a leader on the Supreme Court in defending the right of privacy, championing freedom of speech, and protecting the environment. 

Past Lecturers

Past William O. Douglas lecturers include philosopher Judith Butler, ACLU President Nadine Strossen, climate activist Bill McKibben and anti-death penalty activist Sister Helen Prejean. For a full list of past lectures click here


The William O. Douglas lectureship was created to honor Whitman College alumnus William O. Douglas. The funding for this lectureship comes from the Mabel Groseclose Lectureship Endowment.