Robert P. Stewart (1919-1921)
Early History: Robert Percival Stewart was born in 1878 in Pennsylvania. He graduated from Dickinson College and Dickinson Law School in 1900. He was the Business Manager of Volume III of what is now the Penn State Law Review.
After school he moved to Deadwood, South Dakota where he became a well-known defense attorney and bankruptcy referee. In 1913, he was appointed by President Woodrow Wilson to be U.S. Attorney for South Dakota, a role in which he served for six years.
Tenure: In 1919, Mr. Stewart was appointed by President Wilson to be an Assistant Attorney General in “charge of criminal matters” at the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C.—becoming the first Assistant Attorney General to lead what is now the Criminal Division. During his tenure he argued Abrams v. United States, 250 U.S. 616 (1919), a case involving the Espionage Act of 1917. He served as Assistant Attorney General until 1921 and worked at the Department until 1927.
Later Career: Mr. Stewart moved to California, apparently, to retire. In 1928, he was recruited and appointed by then-District Attorney Buron Fitts to be Deputy District Attorney of Los Angeles. There, Mr. Stewart helped manage the office and was in general charge of all trial work. He played a key role in many dramatic and high-profile criminal cases involving fraud, sexual assault, and murder. In 1936, he died at his home in San Marino, California.
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 Criminal Division, please contact the Division.