William R. Pattangall

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William Robinson “W. R.” Pattangall
William R. Pattangall Maine.jpg
Former Chief Justice of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court
From: February 7, 1930 – July 16, 1935
Predecessor Luere B. Deasy
Successor Charles J. Dunn, Jr.
Former Associate Justice of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court
From: July 2, 1926 – February 7, 1930
Predecessor Scott Wilson
Successor Sidney St. Felix Thaxter
Former Mayor of Waterville, Maine
From: 1911–1913
Predecessor ???
Successor ???
Party Republican (before 1910s)
Democrat (1910s–35)
Republican (since 1935)
Spouse(s) Jean Mary Johnson
(died 1887)
Gertrude Helen McKenzie
Religion Unitarian[1]

William Robinson Pattangall (June 29, 1865 – October 21, 1942), also known as Patt[2] or W. R. Pattangall[3][4] (penname Stephen A. Douglas Smith), was a humorist, sage, lawyer, and judge from Maine who served as the state's attorney general and judicial court justice.

A Democrat for much of his life, he later switched party affiliation to Republican due to opposition towards the New Deal.[5][6][7]

Political career

In 1897 and 1901, Pattangall was elected to the Maine House of Representatives, and also served the mayor of Waterville, Maine from 1911 to 1913.[8] Originally a Republican, he later became a Democrat and supported Woodrow Wilson for president.

During the Democrat primaries in the 1920 presidential election, Pattangall favored the nomination of United States Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer.[9]

1924 gubernatorial bid, opposition towards Ku Klux Klan

In 1924 amidst the presidential election that year, Pattangall ran for Governor of Maine, and faced Owen Brewster in the general election. Running as an anti-KKK candidate, the Klan subsequently supported Brewster, who stayed quiet on the matter.

Pattangall, who campaigned mainly against the Klan's support for Brewster,[10] lost the race by fourteen percentage points, only managing to carry one county.[11][12]

In the concurrent primaries for the presidential election, Pattangall led the effort to place an anti-KKK plank on the party platform.[13] By a margin of only one vote, proposal was defeated in a bitter intraparty fight.

He stated in September 1925:[14]

The fundamental wrong is in the Klan idea of what makes Americanism. It assumes that this quality can only be born in a man or woman who happens to see the light first on American soil, that it is born in all such, and that no one else can achieve it. It adds the charge that no Catholic or Jew can consistently be a good American, because his religious loyal-ties come first and are hostile.


Americanism, of course, is really an ideal and a spiritual—faith in freedom, tolerance, humanity. It cannot discriminate because of color, birthplace, or creed; nor can it tolerate caste, class, or religious distinctions in politics, social life, or legal standing; especially it cannot for a moment endure the breeding and exploitation of hatred and prejudice as a means to sway public opinion and win political power.

—Pattangall, at The Forum

Break with Democrats, 1928

In the 1928 presidential election, Pattangall opposed Democrat nominee Al Smith of New York and instead endorsed Herbert Hoover.[15] He stated:[16]

The Democratic party . . . has for the time being passed into hands not properly qualified to administer.

—Pattangall, August 1928

As was reported during the time, Democrats discounted Pattangall's opposition towards Smith, with the Maine party chair claiming that it diverted "attention from water power."[17]

Judicial tenure

Due to "his attainments and qualifications for high judicial office could no longer be overlooked," Pattangall was appointed in early July 1926 by Gov. Brewster to become an associate justice on the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, even though the two had previously been fierce political opponents.[7]

Chief Justice of Supreme Judicial Court

Portrait of Pattangall.

In early 1930, Pattangall was appointed chief justice of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court by Governor William T. Gardiner.[4][18] During the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt, he "disliked the advent of New Deal politics," according to Dr. Colin Windhorst of Washington County Community College.[5]

During an address in mid-October 1934, Pattangall contended that the Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA), despite its intentions of aiding farmers, was merely inspired by the fictional story Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.[19] Among his criticisms of the New Deal, he also spoke against the National Recovery Act for attempting to:

...foister some sort of feudal government on the United States.

—Pattangall, October 17, 1934

Pattangall in mid-1935 proposed forming a coalition of conservative Republicans and Democrats to replace the New Deal with a constitutional form of government, which drew little response from state Democrat leaders.[20] In December that year, after leaving his position as chief justice due to age limits, he changed party affiliation to become a Republican.[6]


  1. Hale. The Political Graveyard. Retrieved September 21, 2021.
  2. August 29, 1924. LIVELY DOINGS IN MAINE.. The New York Times. Retrieved November 6, 2021.
  3. W.R. Pattangall. Library of Congress. Retrieved November 6, 2021.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Bullard, F. Lauriston (February 2, 1930). NEW CHIEF JUSTICE ON BENCH IN MAINE; Judge W.R. Pattangall It Was Who Denounced Klan at 1924 Democratic Convention. VERMONT CAMPAIGN OPENS Two Candidates for Governorship Active--Two States Move in Hydroelectric Matters. Vermont's Candidates Active. The Hydroelectric Situation.. The New York Times. Retrieved November 6, 2021.
  5. 5.0 5.1 October 30, 2015. William Robinson Pattangall, Pembroke Genius. The Town Yappah'. Retrieved November 6, 2021.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Bullard, F. Lauriston (December 15, 1935). PATTANGALL GIVES MAINE A NEW STIR; Return to the Republican Fold After Many Years Another Mark of His Independence.. The New York Times. Retrieved November 6, 2021.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Grow, Mary (December 30, 2020). Up and down the Kennebec Valley: Maine Supreme Court Chief Justices from Kennebec Valley – Part 2. The Town Line Newspaper. Retrieved November 6, 2021.
  8. Updated: June 23, 2017 Page 1 of 10 History of Mayors City of Waterville, Maine. City of Waterville, Maine. Retrieved November 6, 2021.
  9. March 31, 1920. Maine Democrats Hail Wilson at Convention. The New York Times. Retrieved November 6, 2021.
  10. September 8, 1924. Heavy Vote Is Likely.. The New York Times. Retrieved November 6, 2021.
  11. ME Governor Race - Sep 08, 1924. Our Campaigns. Retrieved November 6, 2021.
  12. September 9, 1924. Fernald Increases Lead.. The New York Times. Retrieved November 6, 2021.
  13. Davis, Elmer (June 29, 1924). Convention, by One Vote, Defeats Plank Naming Klan, Bryan, in Bitter Debate, Pleading for Party Unity; Proposal for League Referendum Wins, Despite Baker. The New York Times. Retrieved November 6, 2021.
  14. THe Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s: Collected Commentary. America in Class. Retrieved November 6, 2021.
  15. Candidate - William R. Pattangall. Out Campaigns. Retrieved November 6, 2021.
  16. August 13, 1928. REPUBLICANS: Votes Aug. 13, 1928. TIME. Retrieved November 6, 2021.
  17. August 3, 1928. PARTY DISCOUNTS PATTANGALL'S BOLT; Maine Democratic Chairman Says It Is to "Divert Attention From Water Power." JUSTICE SIDES WITH WIFE Rejects Smith and Party's Candidate for Governor--Long aLeader in State.. The New York Times. Retrieved November 6, 2021.
  18. January 25, 1930. A FINE EXAMPLE.. The New York Times. Retrieved November 6, 2021.
  19. October 17, 1934. Justice Pattangall Attacks New Deal. Colby Digital Commons. Retrieved November 6, 2021.
  20. June 1, 1935. COOL TO COALITION AGAINST NEW DEAL; Republicans and Democrats at Capital Unresponsive to Pattangall Plan.. The New York Times. Retrieved November 6, 2021.

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