Although Curtis D. Wilbur held the highest judicial position in the California Court System and later served on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, he achieved his widest renown as Secretary of the Navy in the Administration of Calvin Coolidge. Born in Boonesboro, Iowa on May 10, 1867, he was appointed to the United States Naval Academy in 1884. While at Annapolis, Curtis Wilbur excelled in leadership, sports and academics. He graduated third in his class, and achieved additional athletic fame as the academy hitch-kick champion.
Shortly after graduation, Curtis Wilbur resigned his commission, which was a common practice since the number of academy graduates usually exceeded the number of available positions. He moved to Riverside, California where he taught school for two years while studying law at night. Admitted to the bar in 1890, Wilbur served as Los Angeles Deputy Assistant District Attorney. He later moved to the Superior Court in 1903, and finally, in 1918, the California Supreme Court (where he served as Chief Justice.)
On March 19, 1924, Curtis D. Wilbur was sworn in as Secretary of the Navy after being nominated to the position by President Calvin Coolidge. The first appointee of Coolidge, Wilbur came into the position with a reputation as a man of high intellect and a character of "unimpeachable integrity."
Curtis Wilbur worked with Congress for the proper funds to build and maintain an operational Fleet. He also emphasized the importance of naval education, argued for new cruisers, instituted aviation courses at Annapolis, backed the development of the air-cooled engine and repeatedly spoke out on world-wide threats. By the end of his term, Curtis Wilbur had achieved success in enlarging and modernizing the fleet, and had established a naval air force which would grow to become a overwhelming force in World War II.
When Herbert Hoover became president in 1929, he appointed Curtis Wilbur to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. He served with distinction as the presiding judge until his retirement in 1945. Following retirement, he spent quality time with his wife, Olive Doolittle, and his three children: Edna, Paul, and Lyman Dwight. The Honorable Curtis D. Wilbur passed away in 1954.