On February 17, the University of Missouri-Kansas City received forty linear feet of private papers for Justice Charles Evans Whittaker from the U.S. Supreme Court Archive. An archivist is now curating these documents at the Miller Nichols LaBudde Special Collections Library.
Justice Whittaker was born near Troy, Kansas, on a farm and was admitted to Kansas City University (now UMKC School of Law) on the condition he obtain his high school diploma, after dropping out in the ninth grade. He graduated from the university in 1924 with his law degree. After joining the firm of Watson, Ess, Marshall and Enggas in Kansas City, Mo., he honed his skills on corporate law. In July 1954 he became a federal judge for the U.S. District Court of the Western District of Missouri, and two years later, he was nominated to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. President Dwight D. Eisenhower then appointed Whittaker to the Supreme Court of the United States in 1957 as the 91st Supreme Court Justice, and he was the only Kansan/Missourian to serve on the Court. Whittaker was the first and only Justice to have served at all three levels of the Federal Judiciary. He retired from the U.S. Supreme Court in 1962 and became chief counsel to General Motors.
Justice Whittaker has left a lasting legacy in Kansas City.The federal courthouse in downtown Kansas City, which houses the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, is named in Whittaker’s memory. UMKC Law also offers a Justice Charles E. Whittaker Scholarship, awarded to a second year law student in financial need, who has attained the top 10% ranking in his/her class and who has shown an uncommon interest and respect for the law. The law school is proud to say it is one of only six American law schools to have produced both a President of the United States – Harry Truman – and a Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court – Charles Whittaker.
The Whittaker family agreed to donate the papers to UMKC for preservation and presentation. The UMKC School of Law library staff and the Law School administration have helped facilitate the transfer. UMKC is honored and thrilled to receive the papers and looks forward to opening up the archived papers to the public at a later date.