By Fred L. Borch III
With a tip of the hat to the magic mirror in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,1 we ask, who is the youngest person in history to have served as an Army judge advocate (JA)? It may come as a surprise that only a matter of months separates four individuals from the title of “Youngest Judge Advocate.”
The Continental Congress selected William Tudor as the first JA of the Army on 29 July 1775. He was four months past his twenty-fifth birthday when he took his oath of office. As the lone Army lawyer, it follows that he was the youngest in 1775.2 Additionally, there is little doubt that Tudor will remain the youngest judge advocate general throughout our history as, when Congress changed Tudor’s title from Judge Advocate of the Army to Judge Advocate General in 1776, the then-twenty-six-year-old Tudor was still on active duty.3
Born in Boston on 20 March 1750, Tudor began studying at Harvard at the age of sixteen and graduated in 1769. He then decided to study law and apprenticed himself to John Adams, the future President, until he passed the bar. While serving as the Army’s top lawyer, Tudor held the rank of lieutenant colonel and was paid twenty dollars per month. He served nearly three years on George Washington’s staff before leaving active duty and returning to life as a civilian attorney.4
In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, competition for an appointment as an Army lawyer was fierce thanks to the small size of The Judge Advocate General’s Department (JAGD) and the fact that the lowest-ranking JA was a major. In July 1884, for example, there were only five JAs in the entire JAGD, three of whom were majors.5 In 1901, there were a total of twelve uniformed lawyers, six of whom were majors.6 Even in 1916, on the eve of World War I, there were only seventeen Regular Army JAs.7
In an era when an Army officer might spend his entire career as a company-grade officer, obtaining an appointment as a major in the JAGD was significant. This explains why twenty-six-year-old John A. Hull was known throughout the Army as the “Boy Major” after his appointment as Regular Army JAGD major in 1900. The moniker was not meant as a compliment, but Hull almost certainly did not give it much thought, since his academic and military records spoke for themselves.8
Born in August 1874, Hull graduated with a Ph.D. from the University of Iowa in 1894 at the age of nineteen. He earned his law degree one year later. He subsequently served in the Spanish-American War and Philippine Insurrection as a JA with the U.S. Volunteer Army. Serving as a volunteer, however, did not have the same status or security as a Regular Army commission, and Hull’s appointment at age twenty-six meant he was guaranteed a career as an Army lawyer.9
Hull excelled as a JA. He served with distinction in World War I, and after various assignments in Washington, D.C., in the early 1920s, Hull was selected to be The Judge Advocate General in 1924.10 Four years later, he retired at his own request at the age of fifty-four. Major General Hull then served for several years as an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippine Islands.11
While Tudor and Hull were both remarkably young at twenty-five and twenty-six respectively, they have been bested by two lawyers in the modern era: Mark Luke Wegzyn and Michael A. d’Annunzio. When one remembers that the Corps requires all applicants to be graduates of an American Bar Association accredited law school, and that law schools generally require a bachelor’s degree as a prerequisite for admission, Wegzyn and d’Annunzio’s paths to our Corps are unusual.
Born on 8 June 1998, Mark L. “Luke” Wegzyn earned a bachelor of science at the University of Tennessee and was admitted to law school at the age of nineteen.12 He earned his juris doctor from the same institution in 2021 at twenty-two years old.13 First Lieutenant Wegzyn entered the 216th JA Officer Basic Course (which began on 20 February 2022) and took his oath as a JA before graduating on 6 May.14 He was one month shy of his twenty-fourth birthday.15
While Wegzyn’s history is noteworthy, it is Michael A. “Mike” d’Annunzio who earns the honor of “Youngest Judge Advocate.” He took the oath as a JA on 12 April 2001, when he was nearly twenty-two and a half.16 Born in late October 1978, d’Annunzio graduated with a bachelor of science in Economics from the University of Washington in 1997, when he was eighteen years old.17 At twenty-one years old, he earned his juris doctor from Harvard in 2000.18 He entered the 154th JA Officer Basic Course on 8 January 2001, was “certified” on 10 April, and took his oath as a JA on 12 April 2001—all while still twenty-two years old.19
Mike d’Annunzio spent a year at Fort Hood with III Corps before moving to 4th Infantry Division and deploying as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom.20 He spent a year in Tikrit before returning to the United States.21 In August 2004, then-Captain d’Annunzio returned to Iraq for a second tour of duty. Before he left active duty, d’Annunzio was sometimes called “Doogie” by his colleagues, after the main character of the television show, Doogie Howser M.D., a comedy-drama that aired on television and featured a sixteen-year-old child prodigy.22 Today, Mr. d’Annunzio is the Deputy General Counsel (international affairs), Office of General Counsel, Office of the Secretary of Defense.
Now that the youngest JA in history is known—at least to date—what about the oldest active-duty JA in history? It seems this honor goes to Blanton Winship. He served as The Judge Advocate General from 1931 to 1933 when he retired from active duty. Years later, Winship was recalled from retirement when the United States entered World War II. He then served on the Inter-America Defense Board and was a member of the military commission that tried the U-boat saboteurs.23 When Winship retired a second time in 1944, he was seventy-four years of age, making him the oldest U.S. officer on active duty—and, consequently, the oldest JA in history.24 TAL
Mr. Borch is the Regimental Historian, Archivist, and Professor of Legal History and Leadership at The Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School in Charlottesville, Virginia.
1. “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest one of all?” is the question the evil queen asks the magic mirror in Disney’s first animated musical feature, Snow White and Seven Dwarfs. The film was produced in 1937 and released the following year. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: The Creation of a Classic, Norman Rockwell Museum, http://www.nrm.org/snowwhite/exhibition.html (last visited Feb. 16, 2023).
2. Logic dictates that William Tudor was also the oldest judge advocate at the time.
3. The Continental Congress changed Tudor’s title from Judge Advocate of the Army to Judge Advocate General on 10 August 1776. The Judge Advoc. Gen.’s Corps, The Army Lawyer: A History of The Judge Advocate General’s Corps 1775-1975 at 11 (1976) [hereinafter Army Lawyer].
4. Id. at 9.
5. Id. at 83.
6. See id. at 90.
7. Id. at 116.
8. See id. at 143.
12. E-mail from Mark L. Wegzyn to author (Apr. 28, 2022, 9:17 AM) (on file with author).
14. Judge Advoc. Gen.’s Legal Ctr. and Sch., The 216th Basic Class (2022) (on file with author).
15. E-mail from Mark L. Wegzyn to author (Apr. 28, 2022, 9:17 AM) (on file with author).
16. E-mail from Michael A. d’Annunzio to author (May 8, 2022, 5:53 PM) (on file with author).
19. Judge Advoc. Gen.’s Legal Ctr. and Sch., The 154th Basic Class (2001) (on file with author); E-mail from Michael A. d’Annunzio to author (May 8, 2022, 5:53 PM) (on file with author).
20. E-mail from Michael A. d’Annunzio to author (May 8, 2022, 5:53 PM) (on file with author).
22. Id. Doogie Howser, M.D., starring Neil Patrick Harris as Douglas “Doogie” Houser, aired on ABC from 1989 to 1993. Howser was a teenage physician in a hospital. Doogie Howser, M.D., IMDB, https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0096569 (last visited Feb. 19, 2023).
23. See Report of the Committee on Military and Naval Law, Annual Proceedings (Am. Bar Ass’n Section of Int’l and Compar. L.), 1942-1943, at 80 (1943); Famous Generals on Army Tribunal, N.Y. Times, July 3, 1942, at 3; Ex parte Quirin, 317 U.S. 1 (1942).
24. Army Lawyer, supra note 3, at 151.