Judge William J. Bauer was born in 1926 in Chicago, the second of three children of William F. and
Lucille R. Bauer. There was nothing in the family background remotely connected with the law, lawyers or courtrooms other than a general admiration for the dignified but kindly persona projected by Lewis Stone as Judge Hardy in the Andy Hardy movies. Early on, he made himself useful, selling shoes, washing dishes, and delivering The Saturday Evening Post to the neighbors. “We weren’t on the edge of poverty,” he recalled, “but the prevailing attitude at the time was that everybody was supposed to hustle.”
As a boy, he read the many boys’ books popular at the time, with their uplifting message that, in America, there was nothing a boy could not accomplish with a little talent, hard work and the good sense to stay out of trouble. It was a message that he never questioned, or had reason to question, its fundamental soundness becoming part of his personal philosophy. Although his views on America and the meaning of American life became considerably more sophisticated than what he retained from his boyhood reading, he has often spoken and lectured about his belief that America does offer unequaled opportunity for personal fulfillment and success and that much of that opportunity is grounded in our Constitution and legal system.
The family lived in the Brookdale section of the south side of Chicago until moving to Elmhurst in 1941, where he earned his diploma at Immaculate Conception High School. He was a good student, adopting at an early age what was to become a lifelong pattern of active participation in all that life had to offer—violinist in the school orchestra, football in both high school and college, writer for the school papers and yearbooks, leading roles in the annual plays and, always dating the prettiest girls in class (ultimately marrying one).
After a two-year stint in the U.S. Army, he enrolled at Elmhurst College. He majored in history, “because it touches all of human experience, good and bad” and played right guard on the school’s football team—the Bluejays, becoming locally famous for his practice of wearing baseball catcher’s shin guards to practice, to prevent leg bruises. For spending money, he drove a cab. Before graduating with honors in 1949, he fell in love with a pretty sociology major, Mary Nicol, known as “Mike” to her friends. On January 28, 1950, during Bill’s freshman year of law school at DePaul, the couple was married and settled in Elmhurst.
Through a curious procedure then possible, he was admitted to the practice of law in 1951 before he
graduated from DePaul in 1952, immediately joining the staff of the DuPage County State’s Attorney William Guild. When Guild was named a circuit court judge, Bauer filed as a Republican candidate in a special election to succeed his boss as state’s attorney. In the special election, his Democratic opponent was Prentice H. Marshall, who would go on to his own celebrated legal career. “I didn’t know Bill prior to that campaign,” Marshall recalled, “but he was a neat guy to campaign against.We had a lot of fun.” Bauer defeated Marshall, who, after 41 years, still considers him “a dear friend, and one of the finest attorneys I’ve ever known.”
After serving five years as state’s attorney and another five as a DuPage County circuit court judge, Bauer earned his first federal appointment, as U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois. He distinguished himself in part by his ability to recruit and his willingness to guide superb young legal talent. As his first assistant, he hired James R.Thompson, who would succeed him as U.S. Attorney and eventually serve four terms as Governor of Illinois.
On December 11, 1974, President Gerald R. Ford appointed Judge Bauer to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. He served as chief judge from 1986–1993, and still maintains an active caseload. “Bill Bauer has all the attributes of a good judge,” said Robert Cummins, former chair of the Illinois Judicial Inquiry Board. “He has good judgment and a great sense of humor. He doesn’t take himself too seriously.”
The judge’s broad grin, and even broader side-of-mouth asides, is familiar not only to his cohorts at the Federal Building but also to his many admirers at his alma mater. The Bauer home in Elmhurst, overlooks the campus, and Bill and Mike are fixtures at jazz concerts and homecoming reunions. A favorite campus speaker, he delivered the first Rudolf G. Schade Endowed Lecture in 1986 and the fourteenth in 1999. The text of the ’99 lecture, “A Few Kind Words for the Professions”, can still be found on the Elmhurst College website http://www.elmhurst.edu/Magazine/EzineIndex.html. Since 1976 he has served the college as a trustee (in roughly similar capacities, he serves DePaul, Loyola School of Law, Elmhurst Memorial Hospital, and Mercy Hospital and Medical Center in Chicago).The judge says his work on the Elmhurst board gives him “a chance to do something positive for a school that provided me with a great education. I owe the college. This is one of the few ways I can repay my debt.” The need to pay debts and fulfill obligations, both professional and personal, is a theme of Judge Bauer’s public life. He sounded the theme in an address at Elmhurst’s commencement in 1982. “We all owe rent,” he said. “The better our life, the more rent we owe. We pay our rent by service to mankind.”
Judge Bauer is proud of his Irish-American (mother’s side) heritage and has taken a great interest in the culture and history of Ireland. An ever-growing part of his personal library is an impressive collection of books on Irish themes. Few of his many awards and honors mean as much to him as the 1999 University
College, Dublin President’s Medal awarded to him.
Judge Bauer has always been blessed with the capacity to enjoy whatever he might be doing at any particular time. Perhaps, he particularly enjoyed his years as State’s Attorney. It was, in those years, a small staff crowded into a corner of the old courthouse and there was a spirit of camaraderie, almost of family, that would not be possible in today’s hectic world. The energetic, hard-working staff became not only his trusted and capable assistants, but also his dear friends. Understandably, he left the office for the bench with some slight misgivings—despite the inspiring image of Judge Hardy always before him.
The Bauers have two daughters, Pat and Linda, and a granddaughter, Sidonie. He was always, and still is, actively involved in their lives and in the lives of all his family. He has an astonishing and admirable sense of loyalty to old friends—lunching often with a companion from the old south side neighborhood, regularly attending and organizing high school reunions, traveling across the country to see friends from his days in the Army and, or course, keeping in contact with the many friends he has made over the years.
Judge Harlington Wood, Jr. graduated from the University of Illinois in 1942, and entered its School of Law. His legal education was interrupted for service in the United States Army, where he rose to the grade of Major and served in the European and Asiatic Theaters. Upon his return from the service, he returned to law school and received his J.D. Degree in 1948 and entered private practice with the firm of Wood & Wood in Springfield, Illinois.
In 1958, he was appointed by President Eisenhower as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, and served until returning to private practice in 1961. In 1969, he became Executive Head of the U.S. Attorneys; United States Department of Justice in Washington, DC, and in 1970 was named Associate Deputy Attorney General for the Department of Justice. In 1972, he was appointed by President Nixon to be the Assistant Attorney General in Charge of the Civil Division. In 1973, President Nixon appointed him U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of Illinois, where he served until 1976 when he accepted the appointment of President Gerald Ford to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.
Professionally, Judge Wood is most well known for his involvement while serving in the Department of Justice in two separate Native American stand-offs: the first at Alcatraz Island, in San Francisco Bay, from 1969 through the summer of 1971, and the second in 1973 at Wounded Knee, South Dakota. But his accomplishments and impact as both jurist and statesman include participation in much of the recent dramatic history of the world, which he has circled three times, and include Russia, Outer Mongolia, Europe, Cambodia, Greenland, China, Japan and South America.
Judge Wood is a true native of the Land of Lincoln, and is in fact, one of the country’s most outstanding authorities on the life and legacy of Abraham Lincoln. He is a former member of the cast of “Forever This Land” at Lincoln’s New Salem State Park, member and former president of the Abraham Lincoln Association, and former chairman of the Lincoln Legals Project.