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Alumni Feature 1

C. William O'Neill, Class of 1938

Statesman

William O’Neil

C. William O'Neill is the only person in Ohio history to head all three branches of the State’s government. His public service includes the posts of Speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives, Governor of Ohio, and Chief Justice of the Ohio Supreme Court.

Born in Marietta, O'Neill became a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Marietta College in 1938. That same year, he was elected to the Ohio House of Representatives and promptly dubbed the "boy wonder of Ohio politics." O'Neill's term in the Ohio House extended from 1939 to 1950, and though his position exempted him from the military, he served from 1943 to 1946 in the armed forces with General Patton’s Third Army in Europe. In 1947 he became the youngest Speaker of the House in Ohio history.

O'Neill's career continued to rise with his election as Attorney General of Ohio in 1950, and again he was the youngest Ohioan to hold the office. In 1957 he became Governor of Ohio, and during his two-year term helped initiate the interstate highway system. O'Neill was elected to the Supreme Court of Ohio in 1960, and from 1970 until his death in 1978, he served as Chief Justice. During his time as head of Ohio’s judiciary system, he instituted a series of judicial reforms that became models for other states. A proven legal scholar, innovator and leader, O'Neill was recognized in 1974 by the Trial Lawyers of America as the Most Outstanding Appellate Judge in the nation, and in 1975 received the National Criminal Justice Award.