William de Witt Mitchell was a distinguished lawyer who became the fifty-fourth attorney general of the United States.
Mitchell was born on September 9, 1874, in Winona, Minnesota. He was the son of William Mitchell, a distinguished justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court for whom the William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul is named. The younger Mitchell left Minnesota at the age of fourteen to attend preparatory school in New Jersey. He then entered Yale University to study electrical engineering, but during vacations back in Minnesota, he pursued his interest in the law, spending time discussing legal issues with his father and with other judges and attorneys who were family friends. As a result, after two years at Yale, he transferred to the University of Minnesota for pre-law studies. After receiving his bachelor of arts degree in 1895 and his bachelor of laws degree in 1896, he was admitted to the bar and took a position as a law clerk with Stringer and Seymour, a St. Paul law firm.
When the SPANISH-AMERICAN WAR broke out in 1898, Mitchell enlisted in the Fifteenth Minnesota Volunteer Infantry, where he became a second lieutenant and served as a JUDGE ADVOCATE for the Second U.S. Army Corp. When the war ended, he returned to St. Paul and Stringer and Seymour. After his father lost his seat on the state supreme court in an election, Mitchell and the elder Mitchell established a law partnership with two other lawyers. Though his father died in 1900, Mitchell continued to practice law until another war?World War I?intervened. Mitchell again returned to military service as an infantry officer until 1919, when he rejoined his law firm, becoming a senior partner in 1922.
"WE ARE GOING TO HAVE AN OUTBURST AGAINST THIS DISCOVERY BUSINESS UNLESS WE CAN HEDGE IT WITH SOME APPEARANCE OF SAFETY AGAINST FISHING EXPEDITIONS."
In 1925, through an influential friend in Washington, Mitchell's name was brought to the
attention of President CALVIN COOLIDGE, who was seeking to fill the position of SOLICITOR GENERAL. Coolidge, a Republican, offered Mitchell, a Democrat, the job, passing over several better-known Republican candidates. As solicitor general, under the direction of the U.S. attorney general, Mitchell was primarily responsible for representing the government of the United States before the U.S. Supreme Court in cases in which the United States had an interest. Mitchell, though he had intended to...