George Woodward Wickersham

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Wickersham, George Woodward,

1858–1936, American lawyer and government official, b. Pittsburgh. He began law practice in Philadelphia, and after moving (1882) to New York City, he became a prominent corporation lawyer. As U.S. Attorney General (1909–13) under President Taft, he successfully prosecuted many corporations under the Sherman Antitrust Act. His book The Changing Order (1914) deals with monopolies. In 1929 he was appointed by President Hoover to head the National Commission on Law Observance and Law Enforcement, which came to be called the Wickersham Commission. It concluded in its final report of 1931 that the federal machinery for enforcing criminal law in the United States was inadequate. It found in particular that prohibition enforcement had broken down, and the majority (which did not include Wickersham) recommended revision (but not repeal) of the 18th Amendment.
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Wickersham, George Woodward

(1858–1936) lawyer, cabinet member; born in Pittsburgh, Pa. A successful New York corporate lawyer, as President Taft's attorney general (1909–13) he aggressively pursued antitrust indictments and had a major role in shaping the Taft administration's policies. Returning to corporate law, he served as legal adviser to the League of Nations (1924–29). As head of the so-called Wickersham Committee (1929–31), he proposed numerous reforms of the federal judicial system. He also concluded that the 18th amendment, prohibiting the sale of alcoholic beverages, should be retained even though it had led to a breakdown in law enforcement; this was so controversial that nothing came of his other suggestions.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.