Seth W. Richardson (1929-1933)
Early History/Schooling: Seth W. Richardson was born in Otterville, Iowa and attended Hamline University. Richardson earned his law degree in 1903 at the University of Wisconsin where he played football and baseball and boxed. His sports career continued as a semi-pro baseball player and an amateur light-heavyweight champion.
Tenure as AAG: In 1929, President Hoover appointed Richardson as Assistant Attorney General. During his tenure, Richardson investigated oil lease fraud related to the massive oil field at Salt Creek, Wyoming. He also conducted an investigation into high-profile allegations that the Secretary of the Interior and other Interior officials were guilty of “dishonesty and misfeasance in adjudication of title claims to oil shale lands,” finding no wrongdoing.
At the instruction of the Senate and the Attorney General William Mitchell, Richardson conducted an investigation into law enforcement in the then-territory of Hawaii. Hawaii had experienced a number of high-profile and racially-tinged rapes and murders (started by false allegations that a white Naval officer’s wife was assaulted and raped by five Hawaiians), and Richardson prepared a report finding that there was little organized crime or true racial tension, but criticizing Honolulu’s law enforcement agencies.
Richardson also apparently made a decision to involve the federal government in the defense of Lila Jimerson, a Seneca Indian on trial for criminal charges, finding that the laws requiring the federal government to assist Indian wards in cases of “law or equity” weighed in favor of assisting with her defense.
Career: Richardson served in the infantry in World War I as a private and a captain, and then served as an attorney for the State of North Dakota after his return. News reports indicate that he was considered for a federal judgeship in 1921, but was objected to on the grounds that he was affiliated with the Non-Partisan League (a political organization founded by a former Socialist party leader) and apparently was never appointed. President Harding appointed Richardson as United States Attorney for North Dakota in 1923, and he served in this position until he was appointed AAG.
After leaving the Justice Department in 1933, he joined Davies, Richberg, Tydings, Beebe & Landa in Washington, D.C. Richardson acted as counsel for the American Medical Association and Pullman, Inc. in antitrust suits. He also represented airlines before the Civil Aeronautics Board. In 1946, Richardson was appointed General Counsel for the Congressional Joint Committee on the Investigation of the Pearl Harbor attack. In 1947, President Truman appointed Richardson as head of the Loyalty Review Board, which investigated whether federal workers were affiliated with “subversive” organizations affiliated with Communism. In 1950, Richardson was appointed chairman of the Subversive Activities Control Board, which was created to investigate Communist infiltration of American society during the “Red Scare” of the 1950s. Richardson resigned from the Board a short time later because of his health.
Personal: Seth Richardson married Nina Baker and the couple had one daughter. Richardson died in 1953.
This material is based on the review of a variety of historical sources, and its accuracy cannot be guaranteed. If you have any corrections or additional information about this individual or about the history of the Division, please contact ENRD.