William R. Day

William R. Day
Will Day.jpg
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States
In office
March 2, 1903 – November 13, 1922
Nominated byTheodore Roosevelt
Preceded byGeorge Shiras Jr.
Succeeded byPierce Butler
Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
In office
February 28, 1899 – February 23, 1903
Nominated byWilliam McKinley
Preceded bySeat established by 30 Stat. 803
Succeeded byJohn K. Richards
Judge of the United States Circuit Courts for the Sixth Circuit
In office
February 28, 1899 – February 23, 1903
Nominated byWilliam McKinley
Preceded bySeat established by 30 Stat. 803
Succeeded byJohn K. Richards
36th United States Secretary of State
In office
April 28, 1898 – September 16, 1898
PresidentWilliam McKinley
Preceded byJohn Sherman
Succeeded byJohn Hay
United States Assistant Secretary of State
In office
May 11, 1897 – April 27, 1898
PresidentWilliam McKinley
Preceded byWilliam Woodville Rockhill
Succeeded byJohn Bassett Moore
Personal details
William Rufus Day

(1849-04-17)April 17, 1849
Ravenna, Ohio
DiedJuly 9, 1923(1923-07-09) (aged 74)
Mackinac Island, Michigan
Resting placeWest Lawn Cemetery
Canton, Ohio
Political partyRepublican
Spouse(s)Mary Elizabeth Schaefer (m. 1875–1912, her death)
ChildrenWilliam Louis Day
Luther N. Day
Stephen A. Day
Rufus S. Day
Parent(s)Luther Day
Emily (Spaulding) Day
EducationUniversity of Michigan (BS)

William Rufus Day (April 17, 1849 – July 9, 1923) was an American diplomat and jurist who served as an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from 1903 to 1922. Prior to his service on the Supreme Court, Day served as United States Secretary of State during the administration of President William McKinley. He also served as a United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit and the United States Circuit Courts for the Sixth Circuit.

Education and career

Day was born in Ravenna, Ohio,[1] one of the children of Emily (Spaulding) Day and Judge Luther Day of the Ohio Supreme Court.[2] He graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Michigan in 1870,[1] spent a year studying law with attorney and judge George F. Robinson,[3] and then a year at the University of Michigan Law School.[1] He was admitted to the bar in 1872 and settled in Canton, Ohio, where he began practicing law[1] in partnership with William A. Lynch.[2] For twenty-five years, Day worked as a criminal defense and corporate lawyer in the growing industrial town while participating in Republican politics.[2]

During these years, Day became a good friend of William McKinley.[2] Day became McKinley's legal and political adviser during McKinley's candidacies for the Congress, the Governorship of Ohio, and the Presidency of the United States.[2] After he won the Presidency, McKinley appointed Day to be Assistant Secretary of State under Secretary of State John Sherman.[1] Sherman was considered to be ineffective because of declining health and failing memory,[2] and in 1898, President McKinley replaced Sherman with Day.[1]

Five months later, Day vacated his cabinet position to helm the United States Peace Commission formed to negotiate an end to the Spanish–American War with Spain.[4] After the Spanish–American War was declared, Day had argued that the Spanish colonies, other than Cuba, should be returned to Spain, contrary to McKinley's decision that the United States should take over from Spain control of the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and Guam.[3] Day, however, negotiated peace with Spain on McKinley's harsher terms. Day was worried the terms McKinley was insisting on would be "humiliating" to Spain, and for that reason Spain would not agree to them. Ultimately Spain did submit to McKinley's "painfully harsh" terms.[3] His final diplomatic effort was to lead the United States Peace Commission to Paris and sign the treaty ending the war.[3] He was succeeded at the Department of State by John Hay.[3]

Court of Appeals and Circuit Courts service

Day received a recess appointment from President Benjamin Harrison to the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio on May 24, 1889, but declined the appointment.[1]

Day was nominated by President William McKinley on February 25, 1899, to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit and the United States Circuit Courts for the Sixth Circuit, to a new joint seat authorized by 30 Stat. 803.[1] He was confirmed by the United States Senate on February 28, 1899, and received his commission the same day.[1] His service terminated on February 23, 1903, due to his elevation to the United States Supreme Court.[1]

Supreme Court service

On February 19, 1903, Day was nominated by President Theodore Roosevelt as an associate justice of the Supreme Court, to succeed George Shiras Jr.[5] Roosevelt had initially offered the position to William Howard Taft, who declined in order to remain in his post as governor of the Philippines.[6] The United States Senate confirmed the nomination on February 23, 1903,[5] and Day took the judicial oath of office on March 2, 1903.[7] He served as Circuit Justice for the Seventh Circuit from March 9, 1903, to March 17, 1912, and as Circuit Justice for the Sixth Circuit from March 18, 1912, to November 13, 1922.[1]

Notable cases

Day wrote 439 opinions during his tenure on the court, of which only 18 were dissents.[6] He distrusted large corporations and voted with antitrust majorities throughout his time on the court.[6] He sided with the government in the Standard Oil, American Tobacco, and Union Pacific cases in 1911 and 1912 and again in the Southern Pacific case in 1922.[6]

Day delivered the opinion of the Court in Weeks v. United States, where the highest Court ruled that the warrantless seizure of documents from a private home violated the Fourth Amendment prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures, and evidence obtained in this manner is excluded from use in federal criminal prosecutions.


Day was an avid baseball fan.[8] He is recorded as asking his clerk for "regular updates" during the bench hearing of Standard Sanitary Mfg. Co. v. United States about the final game of the 1912 World Series.[9]

Retirement and death

Day retired from the court on November 13, 1922,[1] and briefly served as an Umpire of the Mixed Claims Commission to Adjudicate War Claims against Germany.[1] He died on July 9, 1923, on Mackinac Island in Michigan, aged 74.[1] He was interred at West Lawn Cemetery in Canton.[10]


Mary Elizabeth Schaefer

In 1875, Day married Mary Elizabeth Schaefer.[2] They were married until her death in 1912, and were the parents of four sons: William, Rufus, Stephen, and Luther.[2] His sons were appellate lawyers who litigated cases before the Supreme Court.[11]

Selected opinions authored by Day

  • Ware & Leland v. Mobile County, 209 U.S. 405 (1908) – held that contracts for the sales of cotton for future delivery that do not oblige interstate shipments are not subjects of interstate commerce
  • Bobbs-Merrill Co. v. Straus, 210 U.S. 339 (1908) – helped establish "first-sale doctrine" in United States copyright law
  • Muskrat v. United States, 219 U.S. 346 (1911) – held that there must be an actual controversy between parties for the Federal courts to have jurisdiction
  • Flint v. Stone Tracy Co., 220 U.S. 107 (1911) – held privilege of operating in corporate form justifies imposition of an income tax
  • Bauer & Cie. v. O'Donnell, 229 U.S. 1 (1913) – held that patent rights could not be extended by the holder by means of a licensing agreement
  • Weeks v. United States, 232 U.S. 383 (1914) – held that exclusionary rule is applicable to the federal government for violations of the Fourth Amendment
  • Buchanan v. Warley, 245 U.S. 60 (1917) – held that municipal ordinances segregating neighborhoods were unconstitutional
  • Hammer v. Dagenhart, 247 U.S. 251 (1918) – held that laws regulating child labor are beyond the scope of Congress's constitutional power under the commerce clause
  • Hawke v. Smith, 253 U.S. 221 (1920) – held that a state referendum could not rescind its legislative ratification of a federal constitutional amendment after that amendment had passed.

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n William Rufus Day at the Biographical Directory of Federal Judges, a public domain publication of the Federal Judicial Center.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Cushman, Clare, The Supreme Court Historical Society, ed. (2012). The Supreme Court Justices: Illustrated Biographies. CQ Press: Thousand Oaks, CA. pp. 263–265. ISBN 978-1-6087-1833-7. Archived from the original on May 7, 2021. Retrieved August 8, 2019 – via Google Books.
  3. ^ a b c d e Mihalkanin, Edward S., ed. (2004). American Statesmen: Secretaries of State from John Jay to Colin Powell. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press. pp. 149–159. ISBN 978-0-3133-0828-4 – via Google Books.
  4. ^ "William Rufus Day". law.jrank.org. Archived from the original on April 7, 2019. Retrieved April 7, 2019.
  5. ^ a b "Supreme Court Nominations (1789-Present)". Washington, D.C.: United States Senate. Retrieved February 19, 2022.
  6. ^ a b c d "Profile: The Honorable William R. Day". MILaw. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Law School. Archived from the original on August 8, 2019. Retrieved August 8, 2019.
  7. ^ "Justices 1789 to Present". Washington, D.C.: Supreme Court of the United States. Retrieved February 19, 2022.
  8. ^ Ross E. Davies (2009). "A Crank on the Court: The Passion of Justice William R. Day". SSRN 1555017. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  9. ^ The First Fall Classic (2009),ISBN 978-0-385-52624-1, Mike Vaccaro, page 233
  10. ^ Moore, Gay Morgan (2009). Postcard History Series: Canton. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing. p. 106. ISBN 978-0-7385-6029-8 – via Google Books.
  11. ^ Cushman, Clare (2021). "Father on the Bench: Justice William R. Day and Kinship Recusal". Journal of Supreme Court History. 46 (1): 62–80. doi:10.1111/jsch.12257. ISSN 1540-5818. S2CID 236696172. Archived from the original on May 14, 2021. Retrieved May 14, 2021.


External links

Media files used on this page

Will Day.jpg
William Rufus Day (April 17, 1849–July 9, 1923) was an American diplomat and jurist.
Flag of the United States Secretary of State.svg
Flag of the United States Secretary of State.
Mary Elizabeth Schaefer.jpg
Mary Elizabeth Schaefer
William McKinley, Präsident der Vereinigten Staaten von Amerika