People who passed for white: Judson Douglas Wetmore

by kathleenljackson

Judson Douglass Wetmore was an attorney who gained fame after winning Patterson v Taylor, 51 Fla. 275 (1903) (Florida v Patterson). He is more widely known for influencing the experience of the protagonist in Johnson’s The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man.

Wetmore’s experience with crossing the color line was more often temporary. Rather the completely crossing the color line and permanently passing, he presented himself according to his audience and needs. He established himself as a ‘Negro lawyer’ in Florida and later in New York City. However, as race relations became increasing volatile, Wetmore found himself more often than not acting the part of a white man…

Few fun facts:
– Both his spouses were of Jewish heritage who, though aware of his blackness, concealed his heritage from their families.

– He briefly represented Ada King, wife of Clarence King (who had a double life and passed for black).

– While attending Michigan Law School he passed for white by omission; his peers assumed he was white and Wetmore just never corrected them.

Judson Douglass Wetmore, you just became a person of great interest to me.

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