Emmert L. Wingert (1899-1971)
Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice (1956-1959)
"Emmert L. Wingert, with all his many talents, was always gentle, soft-spoken and unassuming, but still a giant in the law. He was truly a lawyer's lawyer." - Chief Justice George R. Currie, Wingert's memorial service (1971)
Emmert "Bill" Laurson Wingert was born April 2, 1899, in Mt. Carroll, Illinois. After serving in World War I, he graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Beloit College in 1919. While attending Harvard Law School, he was an editor of the Harvard Law Review. He graduated in 1923 and returned to Wisconsin and was admitted to the bar.
He was a staff attorney in the Wisconsin attorney general's office until joining a Madison law firm in 1924. While in private practice, he acted as executive counsel to Governor Walter J. Kohler, Sr. from 1929 to 1930.
In 1956, Governor Walter J. Kohler, Jr. appointed Wingert to the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Wingert was an authority in constitutional law. During his 28 months on the Supreme Court, he wrote nearly 100 opinions. He was defeated in his bid for election in 1958. His loss was attributed in part to his political inexperience and his malaise about campaigning. His opponent, William E. Dieterich, had run for statewide office several times and his name was well-known. Wingert returned to private law practice and argued several cases before the state Supreme Court in the 1960s.
He continued to serve the state in various capacities: he was active in the 1962 reapportionment of state political districts, lectured at the University of Wisconsin Law School and worked with the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission.
Justice Horace W. Wilkie commented: "Perhaps the main contribution of Justice Wingert as a member of a collegial court such as the Wisconsin Supreme Court was not only his ability to write sound opinions, but also his role in molding a consensus on the court and in assisting other individual members of the court, both on their basic decisions and their individual opinions."
His wife Helen Bridge was also a lawyer. They had two children, James and Amy. Wingert died on February 1, 1971.