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George Wharton Pepper Edit Profile

law professor , Lawyer , political , Political leader

George Wharton Pepper was an American lawyer, law professor, Christian activist and Republican politician from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He represented Pennsylvania in the United States Senate and founded the law firm of Pepper Hamilton.


Pepper was born on March 16, 1867, to upper-class parents, physician (and former Union cavalry officer) George Pepper and his wife, the former Mehitable ("Hitty") Markoe Wharton.


Pepper's father, who graduated from the College of the University of Pennsylvania in 1862, died in 1872, when Pepper was only five years old. Thereafter, his mother assumed responsibility for his early education. From a young age, Pepper's poor eyesight prevented him from attending school; consequently, he was taught at home, first by his mother and later by a tutor.

In 1883, with his eyesight vastly improved, Pepper entered the University of Pennsylvania. According to the 1887 Record, Pepper was an outstanding undergraduate, not just academically but also in the areas of athletics, drama, publications and student government. As an athlete, he participated in a wide variety of class sports teams, ranging from crew to football, cricket, and baseball, serving as captain of his class football and cricket teams. At the University level, he was a member of the varsity football and cricket teams and the winner of the half-mile run and the hammer throw on the track and field.

Having graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1887, and obtained his LL. B. there two years later.


Admitted to the bar in 1889, he combined the practice of law and part-time teaching at the university, first as a fellow in the law department (1889 - 1892), and later as Biddle Professor of Law (1893 - 1910). For three years (1892 - 1895), he edited the American Law Register with William Draper Lewis, with whom he collaborated on a Digest of Decisions and Encyclopedia of Pennsylvania Law, 1754-1898 (1902). A highly successful lawyer, Pepper was retained with increasing frequency to argue cases before the Supreme Courts of Pennsylvania and of the United States. Pepper was active in the Republican Party after 1892. In 1922, after being appointed to the U. S. Senate to fill the vacancy caused by the death of the Republican state leader Boies Penrose, he was elected senator on the Republican ticket and served until 1927. While a member of the Senate, he was asked by the Supreme Court to represent Congress in the celebrated case of Myers v. United States (1926), in which the Court held that the Senate could not restrict the president's power to fire postmasters. Pepper became identified in the 1930's with the cases testing the constitutionality of New Deal legislation. Convinced that private rights were being violated by government efforts to regulate business and agriculture, he appeared on behalf of those opposing the National Recovery Act and the Agricultural Adjustment Act, both cases being decided against the government. His autobiography, Philadelphia Lawyer (1944), contains valuable comments on a number of leading cases and public causes over more than half a century.


  • Until his death in 1961, Pepper continued to practice law and to serve professional organizations. He remained for the rest of his life a Trustee of the University of Pennsylvania and the Carnegie Foundation. For many years, he was the director of the American Law Institute and for a time its president. He was a former president of the Pennsylvania Bar Association and chancellor of the Philadelphia Bar Association.

    In his post-Senate career, Pepper published four books: In the Senate (1930), Family Quarrels (1931), Philadelphia Lawyer (1944), and Analytical Index to the Book of Common Prayer (1948). His autobiography, Philadelphia Lawyer, was hailed by critics as one of the best literary achievements of the year. It serves both as a memoir of his life and as an informal history of United States and Pennsylvania history in the early twentieth century.

    The Philadelphia School District named a middle school for Pepper, which was closed in 2013. During its 200th anniversary celebration, the Philadelphia Bar Association named Pepper one of the legends of the Philadelphia bar. Lafayette College annually awards an academic prize named in his honor for the senior who most reflects the Lafayette ideal.


Home-schooling provided the opportunity for Pepper's mother, a deeply religious woman, to instill in her son a strong religious conviction. Through her, he became and would remain an active parishioner at St. Mark's, an Episcopal Church still located in Center City, Philadelphia.


Republican National Committee from Pennsylvania


Pepper's father died in 1872, when Pepper was only five years old. In 1876, his mother remarried, to his father's friend and former classmate, lawyer Ernest Zantzinger.

On November 25, 1890 in New Haven, Connecticut, Pepper married Charlotte Root Fischer (1865-1951). They had three children:2 daughters and a son. Both daughters married Fitz Eugene Newbold, Adeline seven years after her sister Charlotte's death and eventually surviving him as well as her parents.

George Pepper

He was born in 1840 and died in 1872.

Markoe Wharton

She was born in 1842 and died in 1912.

Charlotte Root Fischer

She was a daughter of Professor George Park Fisher, dean of the Yale Divinity School.

Charlotte Eleanor Pepper

She was born in 1897 and died in 1930.

Adeline Louise Forbes Pepper

She was born in 1892.

George Wharton Pepper

He was born in 1895 and died in 1949.