Mr. District Attorney was first heard on NBC radio on April 3, 1939. It began as a nightly 15-minute serial broadcast. Thomas E. Dewey, New York's famous racket-busting district attorney in the late 1930s, was the inspiration for the character. Dewey was front-page news in his war against corruption and crime. It swept him into the governorship of New York and enabled him to run for the presidency of the United States.
Ed Byron, once a radio script writer, was in the process of developing his own radio production when District Attorney Dewey was making headlines. Byron, motivated by Dewey's activities, decided to develop the Mr. District Attorney character and to write shows around the headlines. The program began with Dwight Weist playing the unnamed district attorney who was a vigorous prosecutor of criminals. In the opening episode, the D.A. had just been elected after a tough campaign against racketeers. His sidekick, Harrington (who was never given a first name), and his secretary, Miss Miller, always called him "Chief" or "Boss". Throughout the network run, the D.A. remained nameless.
On June 27, 1939, the show moved into a 30-minute weekly slot for a summer run sponsored by Pepsodent toothpaste. Pepsodent had been sponsoring Bob Hope who went on vacation for the summer. To keep the time slot, Pepsodent picked upon the new program. When Hope returned, Pepsodent decided to keep both shows, moving Mr. District Attorney to a Sunday night slot. In that time slot, the show swept the ratings. The show remained among the top 10 for many years.
In 1940, the program was sponsored by Bristol-Myers and moved to NBC on Wednesday nights. It was in this new time slot that it introduced its memorable opening:
"MR. DISTRICT ATTORNEY!
CHAMPION OF THE PEOPLE!
GUARDIAN OF OUR FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS
TO LIFE, LIBERTY, AND THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS!"
The opening was followed by Peter Van Steeden's orchestra playing the theme and the echoed oath of the D.A. saying:
". . . and it shall be my duty as district attorney nnot only to prosecute to the limit of the law all persons accused of crimes perpetrated within this county, but to defend with equal vigor the rights and privileges of all its citizens."
This is the only Mr. District Attorney BLB, written and drawn specially for the Whitman Better Little Book® format. The author is unknown but the book contains two separate stories adapted from the radio programs.
The program came to an end in 1952.