Wilbur associated with the firm of Bruson, Wilson & Lamme, and engaged in private practice for eight years in Los Angeles. He was active in Republican politics, and in 1898 was president of the Fourth Ward Republican club. In 1898, he served as Los Angeles County Deputy Assistant District Attorney in the office of John C. Donnell, and by 1899 he was the Chief Deputy under District Attorney James C. Rives.
In September 1902, the Republican Party nominated Wilbur for the post of judge of the Los Angeles County Superior Court to the take the seat of Lucien Shaw, who was running for Supreme Court. Wilbur won the election and in November 1902 began to hear cases pro tempore. He was especially interested in promoting children's welfare: on the Superior Court, he was presiding judge of the juvenile department; in 1910, he was a founding director of the Juvenile Improvement Association; in 1912, he was president of the Social Purity League, which offered religious lectures to the public; in 1915, he helped organize the Boy Scouts in Los Angeles, and was named council president; and he served as president of the state Sunday School Association, organizing evangelical gatherings for young people.
It was during his time on the California Superior Court that he wrote and first published (in 1905) his popular "Bear Family" stories for children.
On March 19, 1924, Wilbur was sworn in as Secretary of the Navy. The first appointee of President Calvin Coolidge, Wilbur came into the position with a reputation as a man of high intellect and a character of "unimpeachable integrity." However, one critic called Wilbur "a good Sunday school teacher who wants to make the Navy safe for boys." In July 1925, he accompanied three battleships on a cruise of the Pacific coast, stopping in Marin County for a picnic of 600 midshipmen with a group of more than 100 society women on Mount Tamalpais. In August 1928, he again accompanied a fleet to San Francisco on its way to Pacific training exercises. By the end of his term, Wilbur had achieved success in enlarging and modernizing the fleet and established a naval air force, which would grow to become a potent component in the war with Japan during World War II.
Wilbur was married twice. On November 9, 1893, Wilbur married Ella T. Chilson. She died on December 10, 1896. Next, on January 13, 1898, he remarried to Olive Doolittle. They lived in a grand home completed in 1904 on Frederick Knob in San Francisco. Following retirement, Wilbur spent time with his wife and their three surviving children: Edna, Paul C. and Lyman Dwight.
In the 1930s, one of his children, Dr. Leonard Wilbur, established a mission hospital in the province of northern China now known as Shanxi. Leonard, his wife, Jean Spaulding, and two children, Ruth and Lyman, survived invasions by Chinese communist insurgents and Japanese troops. However, on Easter Sunday 1940, Leonard died in Shanxi of typhus. His wife later gave birth to their third child, Bruce, before departing China for San Francisco.
^"Briefs". Los Angeles Herald (34 (182)). California Digital Newspaper Collection. 14 October 1890. p. 8. Retrieved 2017. The following applicants were examined yesterday for admission to practice before the state supreme court:...Curtis D. Wilbur
^"Keeping Him From Church". Los Angeles Herald (45 (71)). California Digital Newspaper Collection. 21 December 1895. p. 3. Retrieved 2017.
^"An Odd Case". Los Angeles Herald (25 (107)). California Digital Newspaper Collection. 15 January 1898. p. 10. Retrieved 2017.
^"Candidates Galore". Los Angeles Herald (25 (330)). California Digital Newspaper Collection. 26 August 1898. p. 8. Retrieved 2017.
^"Deposit of Funds". Los Angeles Herald (239). California Digital Newspaper Collection. 27 May 1899. p. 8. Retrieved 2017.
^"Not Affected by Code Decision". Los Angeles Herald (22). California Digital Newspaper Collection. 23 October 1901. p. 14. Retrieved 2017. The opinion was prepared by Chief Deputy Curtis D. Wilbur and was concurred in by District Attorney Rives
^"Nominated to Succeed Shaw". San Francisco Call (87 (111)). California Digital Newspaper Collection. 19 September 1902. p. 5. Retrieved 2017.
^"Wilbur is the Man". Los Angeles Herald (351). California Digital Newspaper Collection. 19 September 1902. p. 9. Retrieved 2017.
^"Politics and Politicians". Los Angeles Herald (349). California Digital Newspaper Collection. 17 September 1902. p. 7. Retrieved 2017.
^"Political Arena is Center of Spotlight". Sacramento Union (26166). California Digital Newspaper Collection. 6 November 1922. p. 2. Retrieved 2017. In the judicial offices Judge Curtis D. Wilbur Is unopposed for chief justice of the supreme court, having eliminated William P. Lawlor in the primaries.
^"President Honored By Cruiser Nam". Coronado Eagle and Journal (49). California Digital Newspaper Collection. 5 December 1928. p. 12. Retrieved 2017. The cruiser...is the third of the ten that were approved by the navy general board in 1924.
^"Wilbur Nominated for Judge Post," Woodland Daily Democrat, 1929-03-01 at p. 1 (noting, as the Coolidge Administration ended, that Coolidge nominated Wilbur for the new judgeship).
^"Sentence Cut Out by Hoover," Oakland Tribune, 1929-03-04, Section D, p. 1 (noting that the Wilbur nomination was not acted upon before the 70th Congress ended).
^"Deaths-Wilbur". Los Angeles Herald (26 (73)). California Digital Newspaper Collection. 12 December 1896. p. 10. Retrieved 2017.
^"New Suits Filed". Los Angeles Herald (26 (95)). California Digital Newspaper Collection. 3 January 1897. p. 12. Retrieved 2017. The estate of Ella C. Wilbur, deceased --The petition of Curtis D. Wilbur and Henry G. Chilson for probate of will. The estate is valued at $7600.
^"Births". Los Angeles Herald (171). California Digital Newspaper Collection. 21 March 1902. p. 10. Retrieved 2017.
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