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Charles E. Wiggins
Born Charles Edward Wiggins
(1927-12-03)December 3, 1927
El Monte, California
Died March 2, 2000(2000-03-02) (aged 72)
Las Vegas, Nevada
Education University of Southern California (B.S.)
USC Gould School of Law (LL.B.)
Political party Republican

Charles Edward Wiggins (December 3, 1927 – March 2, 2000) was a United States Representative from California, and later a United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. He was initially elected to California's 25th congressional district. The district was renumbered as California's 39th congressional district prior to the 1974 election.

Education and career[]

Born in El Monte, California, Wiggins attended the public schools in El Monte. He was a First Lieutenant in the United States Army during World War II, from 1945 to 1948 and again from 1950 to 1952, thereafter receiving a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Southern California in 1953 and a Bachelor of Laws from the University of Southern California Law School in 1956. He was a law clerk to Judge Swain of the Appellate Division, Los Angeles Superior Court. Wiggins then served as a member of the El Monte Planning Commission from 1954 to 1960, entering private practice in El Monte in 1957. He was an El Monte Councilman from 1960 to 1964, and mayor of El Monte from 1964 to 1966.[1]

Congressional service[]

Nixon Oval Office meeting with H.R. Haldeman "Smoking Gun" Conversation June 23, 1972

Wiggins was elected as a Republican to the Ninetieth and to the five succeeding Congresses (January 3, 1967 – January 3, 1979). He represented much of the territory that Richard Nixon represented in the House from 1947 to 1950.[2] Wiggins fiercely defended Nixon during debate on the House Judiciary Committee over Nixon's impeachment.[3] However, Wiggins dropped his support after the revelation of the so-called "Smoking Gun" tape.[4][5] He had actually been invited to the White House by Chief of Staff Alexander Haig to review the transcripts before their release. However, after reading the transcript, Wiggins concluded that the tapes proved that Nixon had indeed taken part in the plan to cover up the break-in and other illegal activities.[2]

In a statement, Wiggins said that based on this evidence, "the facts then known to me now have changed." He added that it was now clear Nixon had a "plan of action" to cover up the break-in, and that alone would be "legally sufficient" to prove Nixon engaged in "a conspiracy to obstruct justice." While Wiggins believed "a competent counsel" could offer an innocent explanation for Nixon's actions in the Senate, he did not believe a protracted impeachment trial would be in the national interest. For that reason, he urged Nixon to resign and allow Vice President Gerald Ford to succeed him. He warned Nixon that if he did not resign, he was prepared to vote to impeach Nixon for obstruction of justice. He balked at supporting the other articles, citing concern about "unfortunate historical precedents." Several other Republicans on the Judiciary Committee followed his lead, a fact emphasized by The New York Times in its headline, "Wiggins for Impeachment; Others in G.O.P. Join Him."[6][7]

Wiggins's earlier advocacy for Nixon saw his margin of victory reduced in the congressional elections of 1974.[8] Re-elected in 1976, he was not a candidate for reelection to the Ninety-sixth Congress in 1978, instead returning to private practice in Los Angeles California from 1979 to 1982, in Washington, D.C. from 1982 to 1984, and in San Francisco, California in 1984.[1]

Federal judicial service[]

On August 1, 1984, Wiggins was nominated by President Ronald Reagan to a new seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit created by 98 Stat. 333. He was confirmed by the United States Senate on October 3, 1984, and received his commission on October 11, 1984. Wiggins assumed senior status on December 31, 1996, serving in that capacity until his death.[1]


Wiggins died of cardiac arrest on March 2, 2000, in Las Vegas, Nevada, and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.[9] There is a Cenotaph monument at Savannah Memorial Park in Rosemead, California.[10]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "Wiggins, Charles Edward - Federal Judicial Center". 
  2. 2.0 2.1 "The Man Who Took Down Nixon". The Bulwark. January 29, 2019. 
  4. "Full Transcript". Archived from the original on 2016-07-29. 
  5. Pace, Eric (March 8, 2000). "Charles Wiggins, 72, Dies; Led Nixon's Defense in Hearings". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-08-29. 
  6. Rosenbaum, David E. (August 6, 1974). "Wiggins for Impeachment; Others in G.O.P. Join Him". p. 1. 
  7. "Statement by Wiggins on Support of Impeachment". August 6, 1974. p. 17. 
  8. "Voters Turn Backs on Nixon Supporters". November 6, 1974.,3465620&dq=charles-wiggins&hl=en. Retrieved 2010-08-29. 
  9. "Charles Wiggins, 72, Dies; Led Nixon's Defense in Hearings". 8 March 2000. 
  10. Savannah Memorial Park, Charles E. Wiggins Cenotaph monument


 This article incorporates public domain material from the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress website

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Ronald B. Cameron
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 25th congressional district

Succeeded by
Edward R. Roybal
Preceded by
Andrew J. Hinshaw
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 39th congressional district

Succeeded by
William E. Dannemeyer
Legal offices
Preceded by
Seat established by 98 Stat. 333
Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
Succeeded by
Carlos Bea

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