Saturday, November 17, 2007

Judge Cameron Withgot Wolfe (1910-2002)

Cameron Withgot Wolfe was a longtime bankruptcy judge who also served under Earl Warren in the Alameda County district attorney's office and deciphered Japanese code during World War II.

Judge Wolfe was born in San Francisco, graduated from Oakland's University High School in 1927 and Stanford University in 1931. He received his law degree from Boalt Hall School of Law at UC Berkeley in 1934.

He was only 17 years old and about to enter Stanford when he met his wife, Jean. Her father was Judge Everett J. Brown, a Cal grad and "one of the bluest of old blues," said Judge Wolfe's son. Initially appalled at the thought of his daughter going out with a Stanford man, Brown was eventually won over.The two were married for 66 years.

Judge Wolfe's first job was as an assistant district attorney under Warren in the 1930s.

As a lieutenant commander during World War II, he worked as a code breaker in San Francisco. He was one of those who decoded a message early in the war indicating that the Japanese were going to invade California at Gold Beach, in Humboldt County.

After the war, Judge Wolfe opened his own practice and, from 1946 until 1971, served as U.S. commissioner and U.S. Magistrate in Oakland.

As a magistrate, he once ordered Huey Newton to stand trial in an assault case and, moments later, found himself in the same elevator with the purportedly volatile Black Panther leader. Newton and his cronies apparently did not recognize the judge without his robes.

Judge Wolfe was appointed U.S. bankruptcy judge for the Northern District of California at the age of 65.

He worked as a senior bankruptcy judge throughout the western United States -- handling, among others, cases involving Charles Keating and his failed savings and loans -- until his retirement at the age of 81.

[Excerpted from San Francisco Chronicle obituary]

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