Justice Charles Evans Whittaker

Justice Charles Evans Whittaker joined the U.S. Supreme Court on March 25, 1957, replacing Justice Stanley Forman Reed. Whittaker was born on February 22, 1901 on a farm in Kansas. When his mother died, he dropped out of high school to pursue farming. In 1920, though, he moved to Kansas City, Missouri, where he worked as an office assistant in a law firm. Whittaker then finished his high school education and received a law degree from the Kansas City School of Law (now the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law) in 1924.

Whittaker started practicing law at the same firm where he had been an office assistant. He would spend about three decades there before President Dwight D. Eisenhower nominated him to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri. The Senate confirmed him to this federal trial court in July 1954. Less than two years later, Eisenhower nominated Whittaker to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. The Senate confirmed him in June 1956.

On March 2, 1957, Eisenhower nominated Whittaker to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Senate confirmed him on March 19, and he took the judicial oath about a week later. During his five-year tenure on the Supreme Court, Whittaker did not leave a significant impact and seemed to feel stressed by his responsibilities.

In 1962, Whittaker suffered a nervous breakdown as he deliberated over his vote in Baker v. Carr, a landmark voting rights case. He retired from the Court on March 31, 1962 and was replaced by Justice Byron White. Whittaker later served as counsel to General Motors, while criticizing the protests of the civil rights movement. He died on November 26, 1973 in Kansas City. The federal courthouse there is named after him.

Selected Opinions by Justice Whittaker:

Hoffman v. Blaski (1960)

Topic: Lawsuits & Legal Procedures

A federal district court in which a civil action has been properly brought is not empowered to transfer the action on the motion of the defendant to a district in which the plaintiff did not have a right to bring it.

Draper v. U.S. (1959)

Topic: Search & Seizure

Even if the information received by an agent from an informer was hearsay, the agent was legally entitled to consider it in determining whether he had probable cause under the Fourth Amendment and reasonable grounds to believe that the defendant had committed or was committing a violation of the narcotics laws.

Cooper v. Aaron (1958)

Topic: Role of Courts; Equal Protection

State officials have a duty to obey federal court orders resting on the Supreme Court's considered interpretation of the Constitution. Also, state support of segregated schools through any arrangement, management, funds, or property cannot be squared with the Equal Protection Clause.