Miller Center

American President

A Reference Resource

Joseph McKenna (1897–1898): Attorney General

Appointed attorney general because of geography -- he was a Californian -- Joseph McKenna stayed in that post for less than a year. Yet he would serve his country by sitting on the U.S. Supreme Court from 1898 to 1925, one of the longest terms in the court's history. Born in Pennsylvania in 1843, McKenna moved to California with his parents at a young age. He studied law at the Benicia Collegiate Institute, graduating in 1864.

From 1865 to 1869, McKenna was district attorney for Solano County. Six years later, he was elected to the California State Assembly for one term (1875-1876). McKenna then sat in the U.S. House of Representatives for four terms, from 1885 to 1892. Immediately prior to his becoming attorney general, and upon the recommendation of Senator Leland Stanford, among others, McKenna became a judge for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, sitting on that court from 1892 to 1897. He died on November 21, 1926.