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Solicitor General: Frederick W. Lehmann

Portrait of Frederick W. Lehmann
Frederick W. Lehmann

Thirteenth Solicitor General, December 1910 - July 1912

Frederick W. Lehmann was born February 28, 1853 in Prussia. His parents emigrated to Cincinnati when he was two. He ran away from home when he was ten years old. Peddling newspapers and working on farms, he spent the next seven years crossing the mid-west. Occasionally, he attended school. At 17 his hard work impressed Judge Epenetus Sears of Tabor, Iowa, who sent him to Tabor College. He earned an A.B. in 1873 and, after brief study in his benefactor's office, was admitted to the Iowa bar. He practiced law in Tabor, Sidney, and Nebraska City, and finally settled in Des Moines. There he married Nora Stark on December 23, 1879, became an attorney for the Wabash Railroad, and was active in politics, being instrumental in the election of Governor Horace Bois. His railroad practice led him to St. Louis in 1890. In 1908 he became president of the American Bar Association.

President Taft named Lehmann solicitor general in 1910. During his tenure he handled cases which established the government's right to tax corporation incomes. He wrote an opinion which held national bank affiliates to be in violation of the law. He resigned in 1912 to practice law with his sons. In 1914, with Joseph Rucker Lamar, he represented the United States at the conference sponsored by Argentina, Brazil, and Chile to mediate between the United States and Mexico. His most important cases in the course of private practice were those establishing the right of the Associated Press to news as property and securing for the Southwestern Bell Telephone Company the right to earn upon valuation determined by reproduction cost less depreciation. In 1918 he was general counsel for the United States Railway Wage Commission.

Frequently urged to seek office, he always refused, but in 1909 was appointed chairman of the Board of Freeholders which redrafted the St. Louis charter. He was characterized by Rabbi Leon Harrison as "the best educated man in St. Louis." He was a founder of the art museum, president of the public library, a director of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition of 1904, and active in the Missouri Historical Society. He enjoyed public speaking, for which he was in frequent demand. His published works included: John Marshall (1901); The Lawyer in American History (1906); Abraham Lincoln (1908); Conservatism in Legal Procedure (1909); Prohibition (1910); and The Law and the Newspaper (1917).

Frederick Lehmann died September 12, 1931, survived by his wife and three sons.

Updated October 31, 2014