William Marshall Bullitt was born to parents Thomas Walker and Annie P. (Logan) Bullitt in Louisville, Kentucky, on March 4, 1873. He began his collegiate career at Princeton University, earning a bachelor’s degree in 1894, and received his law degree from the University of Louisville in 1895. After receiving his degree, Bullitt practiced law in his hometown of Louisville from 1895, where he established himself as a senior member of his firm Bullitt, Dawson & Tarrant, until his death in 1957.
Bullitt was known to be a very slight man who one Kentuckian remarked could
“talk faster than any man in Kentucky.” He argued more than fifty cases in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, some of which were argued while serving as Solicitor General of the United States. He had been appointed Solicitor General by President Taft on June 28, 1912. Prior his appointment, Bullitt had shown his dedication to President Taft and the Republican party by leading Taft’s election forces in Kentucky throughout his run for president in 1909. Bullitt served as a Delegate-at-large at the 1908 Republican National Convention in Chicago. He made speeches on behalf of practically all Louisville Republicans during election time, and if he did not think the election officers were performing up to his standards he proceeded to have them arrested.
During his service as Solicitor General, Bullitt argued cases involving the maintenance of the Prohibition law during the first World War, enforcement of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act on cotton corners, and publicity laws and mail rates regarding newspapers and their circulation. Other cases he argued in front of the U.S. Supreme Court involved income taxation of federal judicial salaries, taxation of state bonds and municipal securities, the Federal Farm Act, and the Rehabilitation Act of California.
Bullitt was Kentucky’s Republican nominee for Senate in 1914, but was defeated. He lived a very active life not only as a lawyer, but also as a banker and author. He taught at Harvard University and served as a member of the committee on mathematics at Harvard. He became a Fellow of Pierpont Morgan Library, and was a member of the Louisville Bar Association, American Math Association, Amateur Astronomy Association, and the American Law Institute. As an author, Bullitt’s works included:
The Relation of the Individual Policyholder to the Assets of a Mutual Life Insurance Company; The Supreme Court of the U.S. and Unconstitutional Legislation; Accidental Means; Distribution of Divisible Surplus in the Light of Present Economic Conditions. Additionally, he edited his own law codes book in 1889 and 1902 called,
Bullitt’s Civil and Criminal Codes of Kentucky.
William Bullitt’s flavorful life came to a close on October 3, 1957. He died of a heart attack at the age of 84. He was survived by his wife of 44 years Nora Iasigi, and his three children: Thomas Walker, Nora Iasigi (Mrs. Eugene W. Leake, Jr.) and Barbara (Mrs. Lowry Watkins). Bullitt is buried at Oxmoor Cemetery in Kentucky.