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Wheeler Hazard Peckham, rejected Supreme Court nominee,
brother to a Supreme Court Justice, son to a Court of Appeals Judge and Congressman.
Although he may seem unaccomplished compared to his family members, Wheeler
Hazard Peckham was a very successful lawyer.
Wheeler Hazard Peckham was born in 1833, to Rufus Wheeler
Peckham Senior, and Isabella Andoline. Wheeler Hazard Peckham attended Union
College, but was forced to withdraw due to illness. While studying at Albany
Law School, Peckham joined his father’s practice, Peckham & Colt. Peckham
was a part of the first class that graduated from Albany Law School in
1854. He passed his bar in the same
year, and became a partner in his father’s office.
He went on to be a lawyer in New York City for Miller &
Stroutenberg. He unsuccessfully tried to prosecute A. Oakey Hall, who was the
Mayor of New York City from 1868 to 1872, for corruption. Hall was a suspected
leader of Tammany Hall.
Peckham was most well-known for his cases surrounding “Boss
Tweed” and Tammany Hall. Peckham was in charge of examination of the witnesses
for the prosecution, and helped convict Tweed of stealing an estimated $200 million
from New York City taxpayers through political corruption. Because of his
talent, he became a special attorney general, and continued to convict others
who were part of Tammany Hall.
After the trials were completed, in 1883, he was nominated
to become the New York County District Attorney, but resigned within a week,
In 1894, Peckham was nominated to become a U.S. Supreme Court
Justice by President Grover Cleveland. However, his nomination was rejected by
Congress because of a political disagreement between President Cleveland and
New York Senator David Hill.
In 1904, Peckham joined a committee at Albany Law to begin
fundraising for a needed expansion of Albany Law School from State Street, but
because of fighting between members, passed away in 1905 before there was any
progress towards renovations or relocation.