Men of Mark in America/Volume 1/Edward D. White



DESCENDED from one of the leading families of Louisiana in its old Spanish days, Edward Douglass White was born on his father's estate in La Fourche parish, November 3, 1845. His grandfather had immigrated to Louisiana before its cession to the United States and had been the first parish judge of the Attakapas district; while his father, whose name he inherits, served as the seventh governor of Louisiana. His mother was Catherine S. (Ringgold) White. Of Catholic parentage, he was sent to the Catholic educational institutions of Mount St. Mary's college, Emmittsburg, Maryland, and Georgetown college, Washington, District of Columbia. He was in the latter institution at the outbreak of the Civil war, and was at once called home and sent to the Jesuit college at New Orleans to complete his education. Ardently patriotic in the cause of the South, the youth joined the Confederate ranks as a private, his period of active military service being followed by a term of legal study in the office of Honorable Edward Bermudez, afterward chief justice of Louisiana.

He was admitted to the bar in 1868 and practised with success in New Orleans, while his activity in political life as a member of the dominant party of the state was shown by his election to the state senate, in which he served from 1874 to 1878. He had meanwhile gained a reputation for skill and ability in his chosen profession such that in 1878 Governor Nichols raised him to the bench as associate justice of the Supreme Court of Louisiana. This position he held until the adoption of the new constitution of the state, which provided for a new court, to be organized in 1891. Meanwhile, in 1890, Justice White had been elected to the United States senate by an almost unanimous vote of the Legislature. His term of senatorial service, however, was not completed, the recognition of his profound knowledge of, and high ability in, the law leading to his appointment in February, 1894, to the exalted judicial position of associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. In 1898 he declined the request of President McKinley to become a member of the Peace Commission for the settlement of the questions arising from the Spanish war, preferring to devote himself to the important duties of his judicial position.