Wyoming’s Only United States Supreme Court Justice, Willis Van Devanter
Last week, President Donald Trump nominated Colorado native Neil Gorsuch to serve on the United States Supreme Court.
Which begs the question: has there ever been a U.S. Supreme Court justice from Wyoming?
Only one member of the Wyoming State Bar has ever served on the highest court in the land. His name was Willis Van Devanter.
Van Devanter moved to Cheyenne from his native Indiana shortly after graduating from law school. Following a stint as Cheyenne's city attorney, he was elected to the Wyoming Territorial Legsilature.
He was then appointed as Chief Judge of the Wyoming Territorial Court. When Wyoming was granted statehood in 1890, Van Devanter was named Chief Justice of the State Supreme Court.
In 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt nominated Van Devanter to reside over the Eighth Circuit Federal Court of Appeals.
In 1910, President William Howard Taft appointed him to the Supreme Court, where he served until 1937.
During his tenure on the high court, Van Devanter was a staunch conservative who stood for limited government in rulings on minimum wage, unemployment insurance, labor relations, public lands and water rights.
Upon his retirement in 1937, Van Devanter was the first justice to ever achieve senior status, allowing him to consult the court in perpetuity.
Van Devanter passed away 76 years ago this week, on February 8. 1941. He was 81 years old.