William B. Woods

Media Items
Personal Information
Tuesday, August 3, 1824
Saturday, May 14, 1887
Childhood Location 
Childhood Surroundings 
Associate Justice
Nominated By 
Commissioned on 
Tuesday, December 21, 1880
Sworn In 
Wednesday, January 5, 1881
Left Office 
Saturday, May 14, 1887
Reason For Leaving 
Length of Service 
6 years, 4 months, 9 days
William B. Woods
The Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States (Artist: Eric Guide Haupt)

William Burnham Woods grew up in central Ohio and attended Western Reserve College. He graduated from Yale in 1845 and two years later passed the Ohio bar. He practiced law in his hometown of Newark, Ohio where he also served as mayor. From this political perch, Woods was elected to the state legislature and was soon chosen its Speaker.

Woods was a committed Democrat and resisted the growing Republican tide. At first, he opposed the Civil War but then acknowledged the necessity of a Northern victory. He joined the Union army and participated in the battles of Shiloh and Vicksburg.

After the War, Woods settled in Alabama where he returned to law practice and took up cotton farming. Now a Republican, Woods ws appointed by Grant to sit on the 5th Judicial Circuit.

President Hayes appointed Woods to the Supreme Court in 1880, following 11 years on the circuit bench. This would be the first appointment from a Confederate state since 1853. (Woods was succeeded by Lucius Lamar who would be the first ex-Confederate on the High Court.)

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William B. Woods. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 25 August 2015. <http://www.oyez.org/justices/william_b_woods>.
William B. Woods, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/justices/william_b_woods (last visited August 25, 2015).
"William B. Woods," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed August 25, 2015, http://www.oyez.org/justices/william_b_woods.