Born October 16, 1898 in Maine Township, Otter Tail County, Minnesota
Mother, Julia Bickford, born 1872 in Maine Township, Minnesota, died 1941 in Chicago, Illinois
Father, William Douglas, born 1856 in Canada, died 1904 in Portland, Oregon
Married Mildred Riddle in 1923, divorced 1953
Married Mercedes Hester Davidson in 1954, divorced 1966
Married Joan Martin in 1963, divorced 1966
Married Cathleen Heffernan in 1966 (married until death of William O. Douglas)
Died January 19, 1980 at Walter Reed Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland
Interred in Section 5 of Arlington National Cemetery
1898 William Orville Douglas is born to the Reverend William and Julia Douglas in Maine, Minnesota.
1901 Three-year-old “Orville” is gravely ill from infantile paralysis, possibly polio. The Douglas family moves to Estrella, California.
1903 Family moves to Cleveland,
1904 Reverend Douglas, an itinerant minister described as a rigid Presbyterian, dies in a Portland, Oregon hospital. The widow Douglas moves her family to Yakima. William begins hiking to help him recover from a lingering weakness caused by a childhood illness. To compensate for his physical shortcomings, Douglas pushes himself to achieve academic excellence.
1906-1915 The Douglas household is a Spartan one. All three children work year-round to help support the family. Young Orville, as he was known, delivers newspapers, sets pins in a bowling alley, and works in an ice cream plant. None of these jobs has a more profound impact on him than working in the fields and orchards of Eastern Washington. As a result, he grows to know and respect the many different migrant groups and develops a profound compassion for society’s underprivileged.
1916 Graduates from Yakima High School
as class valedictorian and is awarded a tuition scholarship by Whitman College
in Walla Walla, Washington.
1929 First published article, “A Functional Approach to the Law of Business Associations,” appears in March issue of Illinois Law Review.
1942 Writes article “Press Must be America’s Wartime University” for July issue of Life magazine.
1948 Writes article “Way to Win Without War” for July issue of Reader’s Digest magazine.
1949 Horseback-riding accident results in 23 broken ribs and nearly ends Douglas’ life. Writes first book, the memoir Of Men & Mountains, during his recovery. Published in 1950 by Harper, it remains his most critically acclaimed.