Edward C. Eicher

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Edward C. Eicher
Chief Justice of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia
In office
January 23, 1942 – November 29, 1944
Preceded by Alfred Adams Wheat
Succeeded by Bolitha James Laws
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Iowa's 1st district
In office
March 4, 1933 – December 2, 1938
Preceded by William F. Kopp
Succeeded by Thomas E. Martin
Personal details
Born Edward C. Eicher
(1878-12-16)December 16, 1878
Noble, Iowa
Died November 29, 1944(1944-11-29) (aged 65)
Alexandria, Virginia
Political party Democratic
Alma mater University of Chicago
Occupation Attorney

Edward C. Eicher (December 16, 1878 – November 29, 1944) was a three-term congressman, federal securities regulator, and U.S. District Court judge during the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt. He was considered a consummate New Deal liberal.

Personal background

Eicher was born near the unincorporated town of Noble in Washington County, Iowa. His father Benjamin Eicher was a Mennonite bishop.[1] His older brother, H.M. Eicher, was an assistant district attorney during the administration of President Grover Cleveland.[1]

Edward Eicher attended public schools, Washington Academy in Washington, Iowa, and Morgan Park Academy in Morgan Park, Chicago.[2] In 1904 he graduated from the University of Chicago.[2] He studied law was admitted to the bar in 1906 and briefly practiced in Washington, Iowa. He returned to the University of Chicago to serve as its assistant registrar. In 1909, he returned to Burlington, Iowa and served as an assistant attorney for the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad until 1918.[1] In 1918, he resumed private practice as a partner in Livingston and Eicher in Washington, Iowa.[2]


In 1932 Eicher was elected as a Democrat to the United States House of Representatives from Iowa's 1st congressional district. Twice re-elected, he served from March 4, 1933, until December 2, 1938.

He had withdrawn from the 1938 race for the Democratic nomination for his own seat.[3] When his congressional career ended, Time magazine described him as "a wheelhorse in a pasture of mavericks," explaining that "he worked on the Public Utility Holding Company Act of 1935, defended the Court Plan, was the most ardent New Dealer among the Monopoly Investigation Committee's Congressmen."[4]

The Securities and Exchange Commission

As his final congressional term ended, President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed him to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. He was a member of the SEC from 1938 to 1942, serving as its chairman between 1941 and 1942.

The Federal bench

New Dealers inside the Roosevelt Administration supported Eicher's wish to be chosen to fill one of two new seats on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, but Iowa Senator Guy M. Gillette, who resented Eicher and Roosevelt for their unsuccessful efforts to purge him from Congress in 1938,[5] stood in the way.[6] Instead, no Iowan received either judgeship.[7] Eicher was eventually nominated on December 30, 1941, to be Chief Justice of the District Court of the District of Columbia. He was confirmed on January 20, 1942.[8] Eicher filled a seat vacated by Alfred A. Wheat.[9]

He died of a heart attack in Alexandria, Virginia, at age 65.[10] At the time of his death, Eicher had presided for over seven months at the trial of 30 suspected Axis conspirators and sympathizers. Time magazine characterized the trial as "biggest and noisiest sedition trial in U.S. history," and reported that "no one in Washington doubted that a ludicrously undignified trial had hastened the death of a scrupulously dignified judge."[11] Eicher's death caused a mistrial.[11] After the war ended, the government chose not to prosecute again, and Judge Bolitha Laws dismissed the charges against the defendants.[12]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "H.M. Eicher, 61, dies suddenly," Waterloo Daily Courier, July 29, 1919, at 3.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Biographical Directory of the United States Congress: Edward C. Eicher, accessed June 6, 2008.
  3. "Gaffney Nominated to Run for Congress," Muscatine Journal, 1938-07-21, at 1.
  4. "Liberal Wheelhorse,' Time Magazine, December 12, 1938.
  5. "Eicher for Wearin," Waterloo Daily Courier, 1938-05-28, at 1.
  6. "SEC seat warming," Time Magazine, April 21, 1941.
  7. “History of the Eighth Circuit: a Bicentennial Project," 58-61 (Judicial Conference of the United States Bicentennial Committee 1976).
  8. Storm at SEC, Time Magazine, January 26, 1942.
  9. Federal Judicial History -Federal Courts of the District of Columbia.
  10. Barkley, Frederick R. (December 1, 1944). "Death of Justice Halts Mass Trial". New York Times. Retrieved April 27, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. 11.0 11.1 "Trial's End," Time Magazine, December 11, 1944.
  12. Stone, Geoffrey R. (2004). Perilous Times: Free Speech in Wartime. W.W. Norton & Co. p. 274. ISBN 0-393-05880-8.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
William F. Kopp
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Iowa's 1st congressional district

Succeeded by
Thomas E. Martin
Government offices
Preceded by
Jerome Frank
Securities and Exchange Commission Chair
Succeeded by
Ganson Purcell
Legal offices
Preceded by
Alfred Adams Wheat
Chief Justice of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia
Succeeded by
Bolitha James Laws