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Woodrough, Joseph William

Born August 29, 1873, in Cincinnati, OH
Died October 2, 1977

Federal Judicial Service

Judge, U.S. District Court, District of Nebraska

Nominated by Woodrow Wilson on March 13, 1916, to a seat vacated by William H. Munger. Confirmed by the Senate on March 31, 1916, and received commission on April 3, 1916. Service terminated on April 12, 1933, due to appointment to another judicial position.

Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

Nominated by Franklin D. Roosevelt on April 3, 1933, to a seat vacated by Arba Seymour Van Valkenburg. Confirmed by the Senate on April 12, 1933, and received commission on April 12, 1933. Assumed senior status on January 3, 1961. Service terminated on October 2, 1977, due to death.


Heidelburg University

Read law, 1893

Professional Career

Judge, Ward County Court, Texas, 1894-1896

County attorney, Ward County, Texas, 1897

Private practice, Omaha, Nebraska, 1898-1916


In 1932, Judge Woodrough presided over the two-month trial of Omaha's "political boss" Tom Dennison, along with 58 co-defendants charged with 168 acts of conspiracy to violate the Prohibition Act. National news media reported daily trial developments -- testimony of bootlegging, violence, protection payments, jury-rigging, highjacking, and police officers working under the control and direction of the defendants. Witnesses slept in the grand jury room so they could receive round-the-clock protection. The trial is generally credited with bringing an end to a political machine and crime syndicate that dominated Omaha during the first third of the twentieth century. See Political Bossism in Mid America: Tom Dennison's Omaha 1900-1933, by Orville D. Menard (1989). Photo

Memorial Service (audio)

Nick Batter's presentation on Judge Joseph Woodrough

Omaha Memories

Portrait of Judge Woodrough displayed in Hruska Courthouse   (Bio)

Tom Dennison Trial

The Wayfaring Judge: Woodrough and Organized Crime in the U.S. District Court; by Nick Batter, Nebraska History (Summer 2016)