William F. Fitzgerald

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William F. Fitzgerald
William Francis Fitzgerald.jpg
Associate Justice, Arizona Territorial Supreme Court
In office
March 10, 1884 – November 9, 1885
Nominated byChester A. Arthur
Preceded byA. W. Sheldon
Succeeded byWilliam H. Barnes
Associate Justice, California Supreme Court
In office
February 2, 1893 – January 7, 1895
Nominated byHenry Markham
Preceded byJohn R. Sharpstein
Succeeded byJackson Temple
California Attorney General
In office
January 7, 1895 – January 2, 1899
Preceded byWilliam H. H. Hart
Succeeded byTirey L. Ford
Personal details
Born(1846-02-07)February 7, 1846
Jackson, Mississippi
DiedMay 12, 1903(1903-05-12) (aged 57)
Butte, Montana
Political partyRepublican

William Francis Fitzgerald (February 7, 1846 – May 12, 1903) was an American jurist who served on the Federal bench as an Associate Justice of the Arizona Territorial Supreme Court, as well as at the state level as an Associate Justice of the California Supreme Court. Other positions he held include California Attorney General and judge of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County.


Fitzgerald was born February 7, 1846 in Jackson, Mississippi.[1] He was educated in his hometown's public schools until the age of 12 when his work as a newsboy prompted a patron to sponsor him into St. Mary's College (Kentucky).[2] Fitzgerald attended the Kentucky school from late 1858 till the start of the American Civil War.[3]

With the outbreak of hostilities, Fitzgerald enlisted in the Confederate States Army on March 27, 1861.[1] He saw considerable action during the course of hostilities, participating in the Battle of Shiloh and being wounded at least once.[3] A later account in the Vicksburg Daily Herald reported of the youth, "It was under the eye of the gallant Bod Smith that Fitzgerald, then a beardless stripling of seventeen, charged, with his gallant company, the impregnable Federal works, held by a large body of troops, strongly intrenched, with heavy siege guns, behind quadrilateral earthworks, and fell, sword in hand, pierced through the lungs, at the foot of the murderous parapet. He alone of his entire company succeeded in reaching the works."[1] As a result of this action Fitzgerald received a battlefield promotion to first lieutenant.[3]

Following the war, Fitzgerald began studying law and was admitted to the Mississippi bar on February 18, 1868.[1] Upon obtaining his law license, he began practicing law in Jackson.[3] Fitzgerald was twice married, both times to a daughter of Dr. C. S. Knapp of Jackson. As a result of his marriages, Fitzgerald fathered one daughter.[3]

Politically, Fitzgerald broke with the Southern norm and joined the Republican party.[4] He was twice elected to four-year terms as district attorney for the eleventh judicial circuit (containing area around both Jackson and Vicksburg) in 1878 and 1882.[3] In July 1881, Fitzgerald received the Republican nomination for Mississippi Attorney General. Despite winning support from both the Greenbacks and Independent Democrats he failed to win the election.[1] During the United States Senate elections of 1882, Fitzgerald was the Republican challenger to incumbent Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus Lamar.[5]

Arizona Territory[edit]

In February 1883, Fitzgerald represented the Vicksburg Cotton Exchange and Chamber of Commerce at the National Mississippi River Improvement convention in Washington D.C.[1] During the convention, Fitzgerald met President Chester A. Arthur who asked if the Mississippi attorney would be interested in a Federal post. Fitzgerald requested a judgeship in Dakota Territory, a request that was repeated in December 1883.[6]

On March 3, 1884, following the death of Justice A. W. Sheldon, President Arthur nominated Fitzgerald for a seat on the Arizona Territorial Supreme Court.[7] Senate confirmation occurred a week later.[6][8] Fitzgerald was assigned to judicial district one, consisting initially of Graham, Pima and Pinal counties and changed to Cochise, Graham, and Pima counties in 1885, and made his home in Tucson, Arizona Territory.[6] Only a single ruling survives from his time on the Arizona bench, Smith v. County of Mohave, (1885) 2 Arizona 27.[9] The one-page ruling determined that an 1881 act by the legislature did not remove the right to file suit against an Arizona county.[6]

The inauguration of Grover Cleveland in 1885 signaled the end of Fitzgerald's time on the Arizona bench. The judge was popular among the territorial population and protest meetings were organized to fight the expected removal.[6] Despite these efforts, President Cleveland named Fitzgerald's replacement, William H. Barnes, on October 23, 1885.[6][10]


William Fitzgerald.jpg

Fitzgerald moved to Los Angeles, California, in early 1886. There he worked briefly with Charles Silent at the legal firm of Silent, Wade, and Fitzgerald before joining the firm of Anderson, Fitzgerald, and Anderson.[4][11] During this time he was active in the local legal community, helping perform an 1888 reorganization of the Los Angeles Bar Association.[12] Outside his legal career, Fitzgerald served as chairman of the board for the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, director of the California Sewer Pipe Company, and was active in the state Republican party, being elected chairman of the party's central committee in 1892.[1][13]

In 1891, Fitzgerald became a Supreme Court Commissioner.[4] He held the position until his resignation in May 1892 when he joined the San Francisco legal firm of Estes, Fitzgerald, & Miller.[12] On February 2, 1893, Governor Henry Markham appointed Fitzgerald to fill the seat on the California Supreme Court left empty by the death of Justice John Sharpstein.[14][15] During the two years he served on the court, Fitzgerald authored thirty-two opinions.[12]

Instead of running for reelection to the California Supreme Court, Fitzgerald became the Republican nominee for California Attorney General in 1884.[16] He won the election and began a four-year term on January 7, 1895.[14] As his term was set to expire, Fitzgerald ran on the Republican ticket and lost a close race for San Francisco city attorney.[17][18] When he left office, Fitzgerald returned to his legal practice in San Francisco.[12]

In late 1899, Governor Henry Gage appointed Fitzgerald to the Superior Court of Los Angeles County to fulfill the remaining term of a deceased judge.[14] He held the position for two years, failing to win renomination for the 1902 elections.[12] In April 1903, Fitzgerald traveled to Butte, Montana to visit his daughter and son-in-law. There, on May 12, 1903, he died of heart failure. Fitzgerald was buried in Butte's Holy Cross Cemetery.[12]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Shuck 1901, p. 688.
  2. ^ Johnson, J. Edward (1963). History of the California Supreme Court: The Justices 1850-1900, vol 1 (PDF). San Francisco, CA: Bender Moss Co. pp. 190–193. Retrieved August 14, 2017.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Goff 1975, p. 97.
  4. ^ a b c Rodman 1909, p. 262.
  5. ^ Goff 1975, p. 97-8.
  6. ^ a b c d e f Goff 1975, p. 98.
  7. ^ "Nominations". Daily Alta California (36 (12375)). California Digital Newspaper Collection. 4 March 1884. p. 5. Retrieved October 1, 2017. William F. Fitzgerald of Mississippi for Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of Arizona
  8. ^ "Judge Fitzgerald". Weekly Phoenix herald. Library of Congress Historic Newspapers. April 3, 1884. p. 2. Retrieved October 1, 2017.
  9. ^ Smith v. County of Mohave, (1885) 2 Arizona 27.
  10. ^ "Changes in Offices". Evening Star. Washington D.C. October 23, 1885. p. 1.
  11. ^ Goff 1975, p. 98-9.
  12. ^ a b c d e f Goff 1975, p. 99.
  13. ^ "The Fight Growing Warm". San Francisco Call (72 (77)). California Digital Newspaper Collection. 16 August 1892. p. 2. Retrieved October 1, 2017.
  14. ^ a b c Shuck 1901, p. 691.
  15. ^ "Justice Sharpstein's Shoes, Judge W. F. Fitzgerald Fills Them". Los Angeles Herald (39 (115)). California Digital Newspaper Collection. 3 February 1893. p. 2. Retrieved October 1, 2017.
  16. ^ "Party Candidates". Coronado Mercury (24). California Digital Newspaper Collection. 25 October 1894. p. 4. Retrieved October 1, 2017. Attorney General, William F. Fitzgerald, Republican
  17. ^ "Hon. Charles L. Patton Nominated by Republicans, Great Progress in the Selection of the Candidates for Municipal Offices". San Francisco Call (84 (121)). California Digital Newspaper Collection. 29 September 1898. p. 1. Retrieved October 1, 2017.
  18. ^ "Republican Municipal Ticket Now Complete". San Francisco Call (84 (123)). California Digital Newspaper Collection. 1 October 1898. p. 1. Retrieved October 1, 2017.


External links[edit]

See also[edit]

Legal offices
Preceded by
William H. H. Hart
California Attorney General
Succeeded by
Tirey L. Ford
Preceded by
John R. Sharpstein
Associate Justice of the California Supreme Court
Succeeded by
Jackson Temple