Justice George W. Woodward

On this date in 1809, Justice George W. Woodward was born in Bethany, Pennsylvania. Educated at Geneva Seminary in New York and Wilkes-Barre Academy, Woodward went on to “read the law” and was admitted to the Pennsylvania bar in 1830. He practiced law in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania until he became a presiding state court judge for the fourth judicial district in 1841. While a state court judge, he was an unsuccessful candidate for the U.S. Senate in 1844. On November 23, 1845, President James Polk nominated George Woodward to serve as an Associate Justice on the United States Supreme Court for the seat left vacant by the death of Justice Baldwin. Oppostion to Woodwards nomination arose from Senator Cameron of Pennsylvania (who had defeated Woodward to obtain his seat) and groups fearing Woodward’s “nativist” (i.e. anti-immigrant) beliefs toward German and Irish immigrants. As a result, the U.S. Senate defeated the nomination on January 22, 1846 be a vote of 29 to 20. Following the defeat, Woodward continued as a state trial court judge until 1851. In 1852, Woodward was appointed an Associate Justice on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and ultimately served as Chief Justice of that Court from 1863 to 1867. In 1867, Justice Woodward left the Court and was elected to the United States House of Representatives from Pennsyvania after a special election. Woodward was subsequently re-elected and served in that post until 1871. He did not seek re-election that year and entered private practice in Philadelphia. Besides a brief stint on the state Constitutional convention in 1873, Woodward became known as a traveller. He was visiting Rome, Italy when he died on May 10, 1875.