Walter B. Beals

Judge Walter Burges Beals (July 21, 1876 – September 18, 1960) was an American judge who served on the Washington Supreme Court 1928-1946 and 1947-1951. He also served as Chief Justice of the Court from 1933-1935 and 1945-1946. A Republican, Beals practiced law in Seattle and served in the army in World War II before serving as a King County judge, a Washington State Supreme Court judge and Chief Justice. Judge Beals was the Presiding Judge at the International Military Tribunal I, 1946-1947. He retired in 1951. In his time, Judge Beals was the greatest private collector of manuscripts and books in the Pacific Northwest.


Early life

Watler B. Beals was born Friday, July 21, 1876 in St. Paul, Minnesota. He was the son of James Burrill and Katherine (McMillan) Beals and a descendant of Roger Williams, founder of Rhode Island Colony. His family also included a chief justice of Rhode Island’s supreme court, a chief justice of Minnesota’s high court, and a senator from that state. Beals attended public schools in St. Paul, graduating from high school in 1895. He began law studies under an attorney’s supervision, but ill health prompted his move to Bellingham, Washington. Within a year he became strong enough to work in a saw mill as a shingle weaver. In 1899 he entered the first law class at the University of Washington, graduating with a bachelor of laws degree (LL.B.) in 1901. His first law practice was in partnership with Fred Rice Power. Upon the latter’s death, Beals continued to practice in Seattle. He became active in Republican affairs but did not seek public office.

Walter married Othilia Gertrude Carroll in 1904, a classmate at the University of Washington School of Law. She was the first woman graduate in the school’s first graduating class. She entered practice with her father and brother in Seattle, but resigned from practice when she married. However, during World War I she replaced her brother as Seattle justice of the peace when he went into the armed services. She resigned when her brother returned from the war. Active in civic affairs, she helped found the Seattle Milk Fund, served on the board of the Seattle Girl Scout Council, was state president and national vice president of the American Legion Auxiliary, and was active in the Red Cross. The couple had no children.

A member of the Washington National Guard from 1909, Walter Beals rose from an infantry private to the rank of major. He entered the U. S. Army in August 1917, serving in the judge advocate’s division. Beals spent sixteen months in France and saw action in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive with American expeditionary forces. Promoted to lieutenant colonel and decorated with the Legion of Honour by France, he became one of the founders of the American Legion. Fluent in French, he remained in Europe for several months after the armistice as a liaison officer with the French government. Returning to Washington, Beals announced his intention to run for the state supreme court. In the September primary he failed to unseat any of the three incumbents, falling short by more than 30,000 votes.

Early career

Beals served in the United States Army (1917-1919; 1946-1947), as well as the Seattle Corporate Counsel (1923-1926) and Superior Court (1926-1928).


Watler Beals died on Sunday, September 18, 1960.



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