Edward D. White served on the Supreme Court for nearly 30 years. President Cleveland nominated him on February 19, 1894, and President Taft (who succeeded his nominee) later chose White for the chief justiceship. Why do I blog about this long-departed Louisianan?

Because I can’t find an authoritative spelling of his middle name. After reading his full name in print on several occasions, I reasonably assumed than any departure from “Douglass” was erroneous. That’s how it’s spelled on both of his nomination messages, after all:

Again, spelled “Douglass” on Willis Van Devanter’s Supreme Court nomination:



So imagine my surprise at seeing White’s middle name “misspelled” on two sources ordinarily deserving of great deference in matters like this–the presidential message nominating the deceased White’s replacement, and the man’s own grave!









The E.D. White Historic Site’s web page distinguishes between “Edward Douglas White” the father and “Edward Douglass White” the son; the Louisiana Secretary of State’s site does the opposite. (“Douglass” appears on the father’s grave.) The Biographical Dictionary of the United States Congress lists both as “Edward Douglass White.” The Supreme Court Historical Society denominates the Chief “Edward Douglas White,” though Supreme Court Justices: A Biographical Dictionary disagrees. “Douglass” is the preferred spelling in Statuary Hall (link not working–you’ll have to trust me on this), though not in White’s own home town.

This historical discrepancy is nuts, and our contemporaries aren’t doing much to resolve it. Anyone care to explain why we can’t agree on how to spell a Chief Justice’s middle name?