Born: December 26, 1859 in Eaton, Ohio
Died: April 24, 1944 in Los Angeles, California
Married: Flora Rawson on June 17, 1891 in Poway, CA
Political Party: Republican
William Stephens began his career as a railroad laborer and grocery clerk. He eventually served as U.S. Congressman and Lt. Governor prior to succeeding Hiram Johnson as Governor. It was a time of great upheaval in California—Stephens was supporting prohibition and women were fighting for the right to vote (which passed in California in 1911). Additionally, World War I began.
Stephens' administration suffered threats and bombings. The Governor's Mansion was bombed in 1917 by labor radicals. In an unrelated incident, $50,000 was demanded or both the capitol and the mansion would be blown up. Perhaps as a way to build morale, Stephens frequently backed special days such as "Ripe Olive Day," "Gauze Mask Day" and "Go to Sunday School Sunday." The ever bow-tied Stephens was admitted to the bar while Governor, and entered the practice of law after leaving office.
Father: Martin Stephens
Wife: Flora Rawson
Stephens was named the director of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce in 1902 and served in that capacity until 1911.
In a brief address in 1919, Stephens observed that it was the first time in California that women sat in the legislature.
Books and Articles
Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress, 1774 – 2005
Melendy and Gilbert. The Governors of California: From Peter H. Burnett to Edmund G. Brown, Talisman Press, 1965.
Schaechtele. The Governors of California and their Portraits, California State Capitol Museum Volunteer Association, 1995.