Over one hundred years of judging in the Western District of Missouri
federal courts have been characterized by strong judicial leadership. Thirteen judges have contributed markedly to the federal establishment of the
rule of law in America's heartland.
The record includes a number of important decisions. Slavery issues,
such as Dred Scott v. Sandford, and reconstruction concerns, such as the
administration of the ironclad oath, were grappled with by Western District
judges. Prohibition, local political corruption, the Pendergast Machine, and
the Kansas City Star antitrust case all figure prominently in the federal
court's work. Moreover, the Western District proved to be the setting for
the initial judicial experience of a future U.S. Supreme Court justice, Charles Whittaker. The history of the federal judiciary of the district court
of Missouri and the Great Plains offers a rich legacy.
As the designated historian of the United States District Court for the Western
District of Missouri, I wish to thank the help and support of the Historical Society
of the United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri, especially
that of U.S. Senior Judges Scott O. Wright, Howard F. Sachs, and the late William
H. Becker, and of Society President F. Russell Millin.
A "Table of Succession" for the District Courts of Missouri can be found
in Table 10, Theodore J. Fetter, A History of the United States Court of Appeals for
the Eighth Circuit, Judicial Conference of the United States Bicentennial Committee (n.p., 1977). See generally Lawrence H. Larsen, Federal Justice in Western
Missouri: The Judges, the Cases, the Times ( Columbia: University of Missouri
Charles B. Davis, "James Hawkins Peck," Missouri Historical Review 27
( October, 1932-July, 1933): 3-20; "James Hawkins Peck, Missouri's First Federal Judge--1788-1936," Missouri Bar Journal 3 ( June, 1932): 92-93.
Samuel Treat Papers, Missouri State Historical Society, St. Louis, MO.
Roy T. King, "Robert William Wells, Jurist, Public Servant, and Designer
of the Missouri State Seal," Missouri Historical Review 30 ( January, 1936): 107-31; "Arnold Krekel: Second Judge of the United States District Court for the
Western District of Missouri," Archives of the United States District Court for the
Western District of Missouri, Kansas City, MO [hereafter referred to as Western
King, "Robert William Wells," pp. 107-31.
Dred Scott v. Sandford, 19 US 303 ( 1857). See also Harold Schwartz, "The
Controversial Dred Scott Decision," Missouri Historical Review 54 ( April, 1960):