Celebrate Constitution Day at UNC School of Law on Friday, Sept. 16 at noon in the rotunda. Judge Frank D. Whitney ’87 will discuss the theft and recovery of North Carolina’s original copy of the Bill of Rights.
Whitney is the Chief United States District Judge for the Western District of North Carolina.
In his presentation titled, “United States v. North Carolina’s Original Copy of the Bill of Rights: The Historic Journey in the Theft and Recovery of North Carolina’s Copy of the Bill of Rights,” he will discuss the timeline of events and the significance of the recovery.
In 1789, George Washington directed the First Congress to pen 14 original copies of the Bill of Rights – one for the United States and one for each state. In the spring of 1865, one of Sherman’s troops unlawfully removed the Bill of Rights from the North Carolina capitol. In 1866, the soldier sold the Bill of Rights to Charles Shotwell for $5.00. Shotwell moved the Bill of Rights to Indianapolis where it remained within his family until 2000. In March 2003, the Governor of Pennsylvania notified the Governor of North Carolina that an antiques dealer was attempting to sell the document to Philadelphia’s National Constitutional Center. On March 18, 2003, through a joint undercover sting operation by the FBI, the U.S. Marshals Service, the Department of Justice, and in cooperation with the State of North Carolina, the government recovered North Carolina’s copy of the Bill of Rights.
Whitney has a personal connection to the recovery. While serving as United States Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina, he supervised the federal litigation (both civil and criminal) of the recovery of the Bill of Rights.
Whitney has served as both an Assistant United States Attorney and United States Attorney. He is a co-author of “Federal Money Laundering: Crimes and Forfeitures.” He was in private practice in Washington, D.C., with the firm of McKenna, Connor, and Cuneo and in Charlotte, N.C., with the firm of Kilpatrick Stockton. In 1988, he served as a law clerk for the Honorable David B. Sentelle of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Whitney attended Wake Forest University, graduating Phi Beta Kappa in 1982, and UNC School of Law, graduating with honors in 1987. He served for 30 years in the United States Army Reserve as a military intelligence officer, a judge advocate, and a military judge. In 2011 he deployed to Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan and presided over 25 court martials, including the last court martial in Iraq under the austere battle conditions of the drawdown of forces. Whitney was honored with a Bronze Star for his combat service. He was also awarded the Defense Meritorious Service Medal for service as an Attorney-Advisor to the Trial Judiciary, Office of the Military Commissions, and a Legion of Merit for his overall military career.
For the past several years, UNC School of Law has served as the host of the campus-wide UNC-Chapel Hill Constitution Day celebration. Each year on Sept. 17, pursuant to a 2004 federal statute, U.S. schools and colleges take time to celebrate and commemorate the day on which the Constitution of the United States was signed. Constitution Day presents an opportunity to reflect upon the deeper meanings of the Constitution and the hopes it embodies for the future of the country and the world. Because Constitution Day falls on Saturday, the University will celebrate the federal observance on Friday, Sept. 16.
The event is open to the public. Light refreshments will be served.
Directions to UNC School of Law and parking information can be found at
-September 2, 2016