Edward J. Gehl (1890-1956)
Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice (1950-1956)
"It may be said that he was as gentle as spring, loving as summer, bounteous as autumn, and yet when occasion demanded, as stern and severe as the blighted frosts of bleak December." - Justice Roland J. Steinle, Gehl's memorial service (1957)
Edward John Gehl was born on January 26, 1890, in Hartford, Wisconsin. He graduated from Hartford High School in 1908. In 1913, he received a law degree from the University of Wisconsin Law School. Gehl was in private practice until 1917, when he volunteered to serve in the U.S. Army during World War I. There, he became close friends with three other men who also became Wisconsin Supreme Court justices: Roland J. Steinle, John E. Martin and Theodore G. Lewis.
Gehl was promoted to the rank of captain and was also awarded the Purple Heart and the Silver Star. Upon discharge, he continued service in the National Guard, where he rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel. He retired in 1950.
Following the war, Gehl practiced law in Hartford until 1932, when he served for two years as U.S. district attorney for the Eastern District of Wisconsin. He was elected judge to the 13th Judicial Circuit in 1940. In 1947, he served as chair of the Wisconsin Board of Circuit Judges.
Gehl was elected to the Wisconsin Supreme Court in 1949. He was the first justice elected under a 1949 law which ensured that the winner must receive a majority of the votes cast. He was well respected by his colleagues. Governor Walter J. Kohler, Jr. said of Gehl's work on the bench: "Justice Gehl was a dedicated public servant and an outstanding jurist whose work on the circuit and supreme benches won the respect and admiration of all who knew him."
Gehl was married to Jessica Colburn and had a daughter, Mary Louise. He died on August 28, 1956.