AUGUSTA — The Kennebec Historical Society’s December presentation, “U.S. Chief Justice Melville Weston Fuller: Native of Augusta, Citizen of the World,” is set for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 6.

The talk will be held at Le Club Calumet, 344 West River Road.

Douglas Rooks, author of a new biography about Fuller, will feature excerpts from two chapters in “Calm Command: U.S. Chief Justice Melville Fuller in His Times” — his upbringing and early life in Augusta, and his work in European arbitration, with decisions crucial to the peaceful settlement of international disputes.

Daniel Wathen, retired chief justice of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, will provide an introduction.

Douglas Rooks Submitted photo

Born in Augusta near the Kennebec County Courthouse, Fuller (1833-1910) sprang from two prominent legal families and became, as U.S. Supreme Court chief justice, the most eminent jurist Maine has produced, according to a news release from the society.

Yet he is little known today, and what he is remembered for — his now-controversial vote to uphold a defendant’s conviction under a Louisiana segregation law in Plessy v. Ferguson – is unrepresentative of his judging and his attitudes toward the law and politics, according to Rooks.


Submitted photo

The career of Fuller, who served longer than all but two other U.S. chief justices, contains many surprises, some of which would put him firmly in today’s progressive legal camp, according to Rooks, a journalist who writes a political column for the Kennebec Journal and the Morning Sentinel.

Fuller’s tenure on the court, from 1888 to 1910, marked momentous shifts in the national life, punctuated by the growth of huge corporations, labor strife, an imperialistic war, and the Fuller court’s expansion of the federal judiciary’s scope and influence.

The presentation is free to the public; donations are accepted. For more information, call Scott Wood, executive director, at 207-622-7718.


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