Why a film about William O. Douglas now?

This is a story with a national footprint and issues that radiate far beyond U.S. borders. The wilderness ethic and protection of wild lands have become defining issues across the planet. Douglas often used a metaphor of the natural world to underpin the rights of individuals. These rights were not self-implementing, he said, and his words implored people to be ever-vigilant.

“It took the political skills of William Brennan and a liberal majority to make Douglas’s views law. But the Supreme Court’s privacy revolution in the 1960s and 1970s was intellectually the work of Douglas and his constitutional theory.” 
Noah Feldman, in his 2011 book Scorpions, which was named 2011 legal book of the year by Scribes, the American Society of Legal Writers.

“He was our greatest environmental jurist. There is nobody in American history that I more admire than him. What he understood, which is what I think more and more people are understanding, is that protecting the environment is not about protecting the fishes and the birds for their own sake. It’s about recognizing that nature is the infrastructure of our communities, and we must meet our obligation as a generation, as a civilization, as a nation, to create communities for our children that provide them with opportunities for dignity and enrichment and good health.”
— Robert F. Kennedy Jr. speaking about William O. Douglas at the Sierra Summit, September 10, 2005

“Whether it’s a painting, or a song, or a film, a work of art can nudge us to a new way of seeing, and sometimes even to a new way of being.”
Robert Redford

Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas in 1970 at Goose Prairie. Black and white.
William O. Douglas at his Goose Prairie cabin outside Yakima, Washington in 1970.

Where can I watch the FILM?

Find the 12-minute version on Vimeo, or watch below:

How can I get in touch?

Email john@williamodouglasfilm.com, tweet the project @WODouglasfilm, or use the contact form on this website.

Where else can I learn more about William O. Douglas?

The Library of Congress collection includes over 600,000 items in the William O. Douglas papers. The Supreme Court Historical Society has voluminous records of Justice Douglas‘ work and testimonials on the 50th anniversary of his appointment in 1989. A 2003 reunion, in which 36 of his living clerks contributed their recollections and memories of Douglas, is part of these archives. The Yakima Valley Museum has a William O. Douglas archive in its collections as well.

A silhouette of a hiker at Olympic Beach
Mercedes Douglas stands by the ocean during Douglas’ famous Olympic Beach hike in 1958. Photo taken by William O. Douglas.