Fast facts on the writing life of William O. Douglas

  • Published over 40 books in his lifetime
  • Wrote hundreds of articles for a wide array of publications
  • Writing has been translated into over 10 languages
  • Prolific writing and publication career also included thousands of letters of correspondence, transcribed speeches, and countless other documents
The translated writing and books of Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas

Chronology

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.

1952: Writes article “The Black Silence of Fear” for January edition of The New York Times Magazine, warning of the perils of anti-Communist sentiment in America.

1955: Writes article “Man’s Inhumanity to Land” for May edition of American Forests. “Planless burning is one of the great destroyers of our wealth. When the woods burn… all living creature’s suffer.”

1958: Writes article “West from the Kyber Pass” and others for National Geographic, based on his road trip from Karachi to Istanbul with his wife Mercedes Hester Davidson, who served as car mechanic on the journey through Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, and Turkey.

1959: Publishes book West of the Indus (Doubleday) based on this road trip. It is one of several travelogues written by Douglas detailing his journeys through Central and Southeast Asia. Others include Beyond the High Himalayas (Doubleday, 1952) and North From Malaya (Doubleday, 1952), which covered a trip across then-Malaya, the Philippines, Vietnam, Burma, and Korea.

1962: Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring published. Douglas writes the liner notes for the Book of the Month edition.

The liner notes written by Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas for Rachel Carson's "Silent Spring"

1964: In July Ladies Home Journal, publishes the article “Our Vanishing Wilderness.”

1965: Writes article “Animal Man Needs to Hike” in March issue of The New York Times Magazine. “The subconscious carries a heavy burden of our worries, concerns, and problems. On a long hike it functions free of additional tensions and pressures. And somehow or other it seems to unravel many a tangled skein of problems during a six-to-eight-hour hike. The process is a mystery, though I have experienced it again and again,” quote found in Keith Smiley’s “The Importance of Walking” booklet.

1967: Writes article “The Attack on the Right to Privacy,” in December issue of Playboy.

1970: Points of Rebellion is published by Random House, expressing the Constitutional rights of Vietnam War protesters. Passages such as “We must realize that today’s establishment is the new George III. Whether it will continue to adhere to its tactics, we do not know. If it does, the redress, honored in tradition, is also revolution” lead to a third call for Douglas to be impeached. 

1971: Writes article “Environmental problems of the oceans: the need for international controls” in spring issue of Environmental Law.

1971: Writes article “Pollution: an international problem needing an international solution ” in summer issue of Texas International Law Journal.

1974: Random House publishes what will be his final book: Go East, Young Man: The Early Years.

Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas at a book signing for his book "Go East, Young Man". Black and white

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