CORVALLIS - The 36-year tenure of William O. Douglas as a Supreme Court justice was characterized by a common ideal - to "keep the government off the backs of the people."

That philosophy and a personal commitment to preserving wilderness are evident in the many writings of Douglas in a new book published by the Oregon State University Press. Called "Nature's Justice: Writings of William O. Douglas," the book was edited by James M. O'Fallon.

The collection is the first to bring together Douglas' wide range of writings, including selections from his popular autobiographical and political books, as well as opinions from landmark cases.

"The writings reflect not only his love of justice, but also his roots in Washington state and a lifelong commitment to preserving wilderness," said Tom Booth, marketing manager for the OSU Press.

Throughout his career, Douglas maintained a connection with the Pacific Northwest, and his writings celebrate the region, the peoples and the values he found embedded there.

"The book illuminates Douglas' life in the other Washington, too," Booth said. "From architect of the nation's regulations of capital markets, to adviser and confidante of presidents, to knowledgeable critic of the policy that led to the morass of Vietnam, Douglas applied his daunting intelligence and energy to the issues that gripped the times."

That Douglas was able to prosper in both places called Washington was a testament to his character. Consider these diverse writings, found in "Nature's Justice":

  • "Fly-fishing for trout has no equal. And of all the fly-fishing, the dry fly is supreme. The dry fly floats lightly on the water, going with the current under overhanging willows or riding like a dainty sail on the ruffled surface of the lake...There is the split second when the trout rises to the fly - an instant that is flush with tenseness..."
    From "Fly vs. Bait"


  • "The Framers of the Constitution knew human nature as well as we do. They too had live in dangerous days; they too knew the suffocating influence of orthodoxy and standardized thought. They weighed the compulsions for restrained speech and thought against the abuses of liberty. They chose liberty."
    In a dissenting opinion, from Beauharnais v. Illinois (1952)

O'Fallon is the Frank Nash Professor of law and the associate dean for academic affairs at the University of Oregon School of Law.

"Nature's Justice" is available in libraries and bookstores, or can be ordered directly by calling 1-800-426-3797.

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Tom Booth, 503-282-9801