Edward Douglass White (November 3, 1845 - May 19, 1921), American politician and jurist, was a United States Senator, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States and the ninth Chief Justice of the United States. He was best known for formulating the rule of reason standard of anti-trust law. Although there has been some speculation that White was in the original Ku Klux Klan, there has never been any conclusive evidence found that supports this.
The grandson of U.S. Marshal Tench Ringgold and the son of Edward Douglass White, a former Governor of Louisiana, White was born in a mansion in Lafourche Parish, La. on November 3, 1845. The White family owned a large plantation that produced sugar there. The plantation grew sugar cane and refined it into a finished product.
He studied at Mount St. Maryâ€™s College, near Emmitsburg, Maryland, and the Jesuit College in New Orleans before attending Georgetown University in Washington, D.C..
His studies at Georgetown were interrupted by the American Civil War. White returned home to Bayou La Fourche, where he enlisted as an infantryman in the army of the Confederate States of America under General Tyler and eventually made the rank of lieutenant. He was almost captured by General Godfrey Weitzel's army when they attacked Bayou La Fourche, but he evaded capture by hiding beneath hay in a barn. Later, he was assigned as an aide to General W. N. R. Begle and accompanied him to Port Hudson.
Port Hudson had a garrison of 18,000 Confederate soldiers, but superior Union forces surrounded it. After a siege lasting weeks, the Confederate forces unconditionally surrendered. White was sent to a Mississippi prisoner of war camp. When he was paroled, he returned to the family plantation, but it lay in ruins, the canefields were barren, and most of the former slaves had left.
While living on the abandoned plantation, White began his legal studies. He was admitted to the bar and commenced practice in New Orleans in 1868. He briefly served in the Louisiana State Senate in 1874 and as an Associate Justice in the Supreme Court of Louisiana from 1879 to 1880.
He became famous in Louisiana for abolishing the Louisiana Lottery, a hotbed of corruption that was taken before the state's Supreme Court and ordered discontinued in 1894.
The state's legislature appointed him to the United States Senate in 1891 to succeed J. B. Eustis. He served until his resignation on March 12, 1894, when he was nominated by President Grover Cleveland(D) to be an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.
In 1910, he was elevated by President William Howard Taft to the position of Chief Justice of the United States upon the death of Melville Fuller. At the time, it was a controversial appointment for two reasons. First, White was a Democrat while Taft was a Republican. The media of the day widely expected Taft to name Republican Justice Hughes to the post. Second, White was the second Associate Justice to ever be appointed Chief Justice. Some historians believe that President Taft appointed White, who was 65 years old at the time and overweight, in the hope that White would not serve all that long and that Taft himself might someday be appointed--which, in fact, is just what happened eleven years later.
White was generally seen as one of the more conservative members of the court. Besides being the originator of the "rule of reason", White also wrote the decision upholding the constitutionality of the Adamson Act, which had mandated a maximum eight-hour work day for railroad employees, in 1916.
He married Eleanor Kent, the widow of Linden Kent, on November 6, 1894, in New York City. White died in office and was buried at the Oak Hill Cemetery in Washington, D.C.