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William Jefferson Hunsaker

William Jefferson "Will" Hunsaker (1855–1933) was an American lawyer and politician from San Diego and later Los Angeles, California. Hunsaker was the San Diego County District Attorney from 1882 to 1884, 4th Mayor of San Diego from 1887 to 1888[1] and president of the California Bar Association from 1913 to 1914.[2][3]

William Jefferson Hunsaker
William Hunsaker.jpg
4th Mayor of San Diego
In office
January 3, 1888 – November 13, 1888
Preceded byGeorge P. Tebbetts
Succeeded byMartin D. Hamilton (acting)
Personal details
Born21 September 1855
Contra Costa County, California
Died13 January 1933 (aged 77)
Los Angeles, California
Political partyWorkingman (until 1896), then Republican
Spouse(s)Florence Virginia McFarland

Early life and careerEdit

William Hunsaker was born 21 September 1855 in Contra Costa County, California to Nicholas and Lois E. (Hastings) Hunsaker. Nicholas Hunziker settled in California in 1847 and was sheriff of Contra Costa County from 1851 to 1853 and from 1855 to 1857.[4][5] Lois's uncle was Lansford W. Hastings, author of "Emigrant's Guide To Oregon and California", captain in Frémont's California Battalion, and participant in California's constitutional convention.[4][6] Nicholas Hunsaker moved his family to San Diego in 1869, where he served as the 10th sheriff of San Diego County from 1875 to 1876.[7]

At 16 years of age, William Hunsaker began to learn the printer's trade, starting as a printer's devil on the San Diego Bulletin, then working as a journeyman printer on the Bulletin and the World for two and a half years.[4][6] Hunsaker next trained as a lawyer with Major Levi Chase and Albert C. Baker and was admitted to practice law in 1876. On 27 February 1879, Hunsaker married Florence McFarland in San Diego and the couple moved to Tombstone, Arizona.[7] In 1881, Hunsaker assisted his law partner, Thomas Fitch, in defending Wyatt Earp from murder charges resulting from the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.[6][8][9][10] When Earp died in 1929, Hunsaker was one of the pall-bearers at Earp's funeral.[11]

Elected officeEdit

Hunsaker's first elected office was San Diego District Attorney, from 1882 to 1884. After being nominated, Hunsaker ran an aggressive campaign touring most of San Diego County. At the time, this included all of what are now San Diego County and Imperial County, as well as most of Riverside County and parts of San Bernardino County.[6][9]

In 1887, Hunsaker ran for the newly reestablished office of mayor of San Diego, after 35 years of the formerly-bankrupt city being run by a board of trustees. Hunsaker ran as the candidate of the Workingman's Party. The party's platform supported the interests of laborers, arguing for a larger share of wealth for laborers, promoting businesses to hire native-born workers rather than the primarily Chinese foreign-born workers. Hunsaker was elected to a two-year term, defeating his opponent D. C. Reed of the Citizens party by 1041 votes to 867.[12][13] He was sworn in on January 3, 1888.[14]

Although Hunsaker won his election, the city council was dominated by members of the Citizen's Party. Hunsaker felt that he lost a power struggle with the rest of the council, and resigned from office on November 13, 1888 after a period of poor attendance at council meetings.[15] After stepping down from office, Hunsaker resumed work in the field of law.[9]

Later careerEdit

In 1889, William Hunsaker unsuccessfully defended the killer of the Oceanside marshal in a well-publicized case.[16] In June 1892, the Hunsakers moved to Los Angeles. From 1893 to 1896, Hunsaker was counsel for the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway,[17][18][19] but apparently maintained an outside practice as well, defending E. S. Babcock from bribery charges related to the Southern California Mountain Water Company.[20] Upon leaving the AT&SF, Hunsaker entered private practice, eventually re-joining with Eugene W. Britt, Hunsaker's partner when located in San Diego. Disenchanted with the Democratic Party's support for free silver, Hunsaker switched political affiliation to the Republican Party in 1896, supporting the McKinley campaign.[21] However Hunsaker remained largely independent — from 1896 to 1906, he chaired the Committee of One Hundred, a group of leading citizens who published non-partisan ballots for local elections.[22]

In 1901, Hunsaker was elected to be "junior vice-president" of the Los Angeles Bar Association and appointed as a delegate to the 1901 American Bar Association convention to be held in Denver.[23] In 1904, William J. Hunsaker was present at the American Bar Association annual meeting in St. Louis as vice-president of, and delegate appointed by, the California State Bar Association[24][25] and was elected to be a vice president of the ABA.[26] Later in 1904, Hunsaker was elected to be president of the Los Angeles Bar Association.[7][27] During this period, Hunsaker defended major California newspapers from several sensational libel[28][29][30][31] and commercial[32] lawsuits. In 1908, Hunsaker was president of the Los Angeles City Charter Revision Committee[7] and the Los Angeles City Club,[33] and a leading candidate to fill the California Supreme Court position vacated by the death of Thomas B. McFarland.[34] In 1911, Hunsaker was elected vice president of the California Bar Association,[35] and in 1913, was elected Association president, 1913-1914.[2][36] Hunsaker was a life member of the Native Sons of the Golden West.[3]

Personal lifeEdit

Will and Florence had five children: Mary Cameron (William Brill), twins Florence King and Lois, Rose Margaret (John Hamilton Lashbrooke, William Adam Steehler, Marshall Macy Hobson), and Daniel McFarland (Katherine Lyons).[6][7] Lois Hunsaker died at age 9 months in November 1882. Florence pre-deceased her husband, Will, passing on 24 Nov 1928. Will Hunsaker died at his Los Angeles home on 13 Jan 1933[37][38] and is buried in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Los Angeles County.[39]


  1. ^ "ELECTION HISTORY – MAYOR, CITY OF SAN DIEGO" (PDF). City of San Diego. June 2008. p. 8. Retrieved 14 Sep 2010.
  2. ^ a b "Proceedings of the Fourth Annual Convention, California Bar Association". 4. San Francisco, CA: California Bar Association. 1914: 166–168. Retrieved 15 June 2013. I have the great honor and pleasure in introducing to you the new President of the Association, the Honorable William J. Hunsaker. Cite journal requires |journal= (help) President, 1913-1914, Wm. J. Hunsaker, Los Angeles Title Insurance and Trust Bldg.
  3. ^ a b Layne, J. Gregg (June 1933). "In Memoriam, William Jefferson Hunsaker". Calif Hist Q J. California Historical Society. 12 (2): 183–184. doi:10.2307/25178210. Retrieved 15 August 2015.
  4. ^ a b c McGroarty, John Steven (1921). Los Angeles from the Mountains to the Sea. 2. Chicago: American Historical Society. p. 221. LCCN 21003908. OL 13489763M. Retrieved 15 June 2013.
  5. ^ Munro-Fraser, J. P., ed. (1882). History of Contra Costa County, California. San Francisco, CA: W. A. Slocum & CO. pp. 240–242. ISBN 0914418017. Retrieved 14 June 2013. See Table showing the Officers of Contra Costa County, as compiled from the Records of the COurt of Sessions and Boards of Supervisers, from 1850 to 1882 inclusive. Re-print Brooks-Sterling Company, 1974, Oakland
  6. ^ a b c d e "Press Reference Library" (Southwest ed.). Los Angeles, CA: The Los Angeles Examiner. 1912: 88. LCCN 12008422. Retrieved 25 Jul 2015. HUNSAKER, WILLIAM JEFFERSON, lawyer, Los Angeles, Cal., was born September 21, 1855, in Contra Costa County, Cal., the son of Nicholas Hunsaker and Lois E. (Hastings) Hunsaker. Lansing Warren Hastings, his maternal grand uncle, was a member of the First Constitutional Convention of California. Mr. Hunsaker married Florence Virginia McFarland February 26, 1879, at San Diego, Ca. There are four children — Mary Cameron, Florence King, Rose Margaret and Daniel McFarland Hunsaker. He attended the public schools of Contra Costa County and San Diego up to the age of 16, when he left to learn the printer's trade. He began as a printer's devil on the "Bulletin" in San Diego, worked as a Journeyman printer on the "Bulletin" and the San Diego "World" for two years and a half, then took up the study of law In the office of A. C. Baker, afterwards Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Arizona. He was admitted to the bar by the District Court of San Diego County, 1876, and by the California Supreme Court In 1882; practiced at San Diego, 1876 to 1880, when he located at Tombstone, Ariz., remaining there one year. He then returned to San Diego and in 1882 was elected District Attorney for the county. He served until 1884, when he resumed private practice. In 1886 be formed a partnership with E. W. Brltt as Hunsaker and BritL In 1892 Mr. Hunsaker moved to Los Angeles and has since resided and practiced his profession there. In 1900 he and Mr. Brltt resumed their partnership relations, which still continue. Mr. Hunsaker has figured in many notable cases, among others the Robert Crawford Smith and Dalter will contests and the Tlngley and Hearne libel cases. He is a member of the Am. Bar Ass'n, Cal. State Bar Ass'n, University, Jonathan and California Clubs. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  7. ^ a b c d e Lummis, Charles Fletcher; Moody, Charles Amadon, eds. (1909). "Makers of Los Angeles". Out West. 30. Los Angeles, CA: Out West Magazine Co. p. 365. ISBN 9781153075565. Archived from the original on 2008-01-29. Retrieved 14 June 2013.
  8. ^ Press reference library (Southwest ed.) Notables of the Southwest. Los Angeles: The Los Angeles Examiner. 1912. p. 88.
  9. ^ a b c "William Jefferson Hunsaker (1855-1933)". Biographies. San Diego History Center. Retrieved 14 Sep 2010.
  10. ^ Earp, Josephine Sarah Marcus (August 1994) [1976]. Boyer, Glenn G. (ed.). I Married Wyatt Earp. University of Arizona Press. ISBN 978-0816505838.
  11. ^ "Gunfigher Earp's Rites Tomorrow". Los Angeles Times. January 17, 1929. Retrieved April 14, 2011.
  12. ^ Larson, Thomas (28 October 2004). "Elections San Diego Style". San Diego Reader. Retrieved 22 December 2012.
  13. ^ "Men of the State" (jpg). Oakland Tribune. 11 Nov 1887. p. 2. Retrieved 28 Jul 2015 – via W.J. Hunsaker, elected Mayor of San Diego on the Workingman's ticket, is a lawyer in good practice at the San Diego bar.  
  14. ^ "The New Government". The San Diego Union. January 4, 1888. p. 5. Retrieved February 23, 2014.
  15. ^ "Mayor Hunsaker Resigns" (jpg). Los Angeles Herald. 10 Nov 1888. p. 5. Retrieved 28 Jul 2015 – via San Diego, November 9.--Ma[y]or W.J. Hunsaker, of this city, has peremptorily resigned as Mayor, alleging that his private business is too great to allow him occupy the position. He is a leading lawyer and Democrat.  
  16. ^ Crawford, Richard (24 March 2011). "Slaying of City Marshal Left an Impact". San Diego Union-Tribune.
  17. ^ "Judge Brunson Resigns" (jpg). Los Angeles Herald. 14 Jun 1893. p. 14 Jun 1893. Retrieved 28 Jul 2015 – via Judge Anson Brunson, who has ably conducted the legal business of the Santa Fe company in California for the past six or seven years, will today turn over the office to Mr. W. J. Hunsaker, his successor.  
  18. ^ "Solicitor Hunsaker Resigns" (jpg). The San Francisco Call. 16 May 1896. p. 4. Retrieved 28 Jul 2015 – via Los Angeles, Cal., May 15--Hon. William J. Hunsaker, who for several years has been solicitor for the Santa Fe Railroad, has resigned. Increased private business and his recent appointment as attorney for a Scotch mining syndicate in Arizona caused his withdrawal.  
  19. ^ Rodman, Willoughby (1909), History of the bench and bar of southern California, Los Angeles: W. J. Porter, p. 177, OCLC 4408734, retrieved 25 Jul 2015, Residence, Sunny Slope, San Gabriel Valley. Office, H. W. Hellman building, Los Angeles. Born in 1855, in Contra Costa County, Cal. Married February 27, 1879, to Florence V. McFarland. Received his early education in his native place, and moved with his parents to San Diego in 1869, where he resumed his studies; studies law in the offices of Major Chase and Judge Baker of San Diego. Admitted to the bar in San Diego in 1876; engaged in practice there until he was elected District Attorney of San Diego County, serving in that capacity, 1883-84; practiced in partnership with E. W. Britt, 1889-92; moved to Los Angeles in 1892 and was counsel for the Santa Fe Railroad until 1900, when Mr. Britt removed to Los Angeles and the old partnership was renewed, which firm still exists as Hunsaker & Britt. Member of the Chamber of Commerce, and for a number of years actively identified with its progress.
  20. ^ "Mayne Refuses to Talk" (jpg). Los Angeles Herald. 29 Dec 1895. p. 5. Retrieved 28 Jul 2015 – via  
  21. ^ "San Diegans Cheer Hunsaker - The Elequent Democrat Tells Why He Supports McKinley" (jpg). The San Francisco Call. 13 Oct 1896. p. 4. Retrieved 28 Jul 2015 – via The largest crowd that ever gathered on the plaza greeted Hon. Wiliam J. Hunsaker of Los Angeles to-night. Mr. Hunsaker was formerly Mayor of San Diego, and he is to-day one of the most prominent Democrats in Southern California. What he had to say, therefore, in advocacy of McKinley was worth listening to, as showing what the better element of his party really believes, even though few have the courage of Mr. Hunsaker to say so.  
  22. ^ "Non-Partisan Ticket Delayed". Los Angeles Herald. 27 Sep 1906. p. 4. Hunsaker resigns as president of the Committee of the One Hundred.
  23. ^ Smith, Frank Charles; Proctor, Lucien Brock; Chapin, Heman Gerald; et al., eds. (Jan 1901). "The American Lawyer". 9 (1). New York: Stumpf & Steurer: 341. Retrieved 15 June 2013. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  24. ^ "Report of the Twenty-Seventh Annual Meeting of the American Bar Association". Annual report of the American Bar Association. Philadelphia, PA: Dando Printing and Publishing Company. 27. 1904. Retrieved 15 June 2013.
  25. ^ Porter, Valentine Mott, ed. (1905), Official Report of the Universal Congress of Lawyers and Jurists: Held at St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.A., September 28, 29, and 30, 1904, Under the Auspices of the Universal Exposition and the American Bar Association, St. Louis, MO: American Bar Association, p. 290, retrieved 25 Jul 2015
  26. ^ "W. J. Hunsaker of California Elected One of Bar Association's Vice Presidents" (jpg). The San Francisco Call. 29 Sep 1904. p. 12. Retrieved 28 Jul 2015 – via  
  27. ^ "Past Presidents of LACBA". Los Angeles County Bar Association. Retrieved 15 June 2013. 1904 William J. Hunsaker
  28. ^ Hearne v. De Young, 52 P. 150 (Cal. 1898).
  29. ^ Hearne v. De Young, 64 P. 576 (Cal. 1901).
  30. ^ "Gage Begins A Libel Suit" (jpg). The San Francisco Call. San Francisco, CA. 19 Jul 1902. p. 3. Retrieved 31 Aug 2018 – via The first proceedings in the suit of Governor Gage for $100,000 damages against the Los Angeles Times for alleged libel began this morning before Judge Trask of the Superior Court. Attorneys W. J. Hunsaker and W. F. Fitzgerald appeared for the Times ***.  
  31. ^ Tingley v. Times Mirror Co., 89 P. 1097 (Cal. 1907).
  32. ^ "Lawyers Gather For The Battle" (jpg). The San Francisco Call. San Francisco, CA. 23 Apr 1902. p. 3. Retrieved 1 Sep 2018 – via When United States District Judge Olin Wellborn calls the Huntington freight franchise case for trial on Thursday morning there will have begun one of the fiercest legal battles ever fought in Southern California.  
  33. ^ "William J. Hunsaker Named President" (jpg). Los Angeles Herald. 12 Apr 1908. p. 9. Retrieved 28 Jul 2015 – via  
  34. ^ "The South Wants to Fill Vacancy" (jpg). The San Bernardino County Sun. 19 Sep 1908. p. 1. Retrieved 28 Jul 2015 – via  
  35. ^ "Officers of California Bar Association, 1911" (jpg). Los Angeles Herald. 9 Dec 1910. p. 3. Retrieved 28 Jul 2015 – via William J. Hunsaker, Los Angeles, vice president second district  
  36. ^ "Hunsaker Heads Bar Association of State" (jpg). Santa Ana Register. 22 Nov 1913. p. 1. Retrieved 28 Jul 2015 – via William J. Hunsaker of Los Angeles was today elected president of the State Bar Association.  
  37. ^ "Hunsaker, Prominent Attorney, is Called" (jpg). The San Bernardino County Sun. 14 Jan 1933. p. 1. Retrieved 28 Jul 2015 – via LOS ANGELES, Jan. 13.--Death early today overtook William J. Hunsaker, one of the most prominent attorneys in Los Angeles and a former president of both the Los Angeles and California Bar Associations. He was 77 years of age. A son, Daniel M. Hunsaker, and two daughters, Mrs. Mary M. Brill and Mrs. Rose Steehler, were at the bedside when the distinguished lawyer succumbed at 2 o'clock this morning at his home at 515 South Harvard boulevard. A heart attack following two weeks' illness from influenza was given as the cause of death. At the time of his death the veteran attorney was senior member of Hunsaker & Britt & Cosgrove, one of the city's prominent law firms. Mr. Hunsaker, a native Californian, formerly spent considerable time in the San Bernardino mountains. Prior to his Los Angeles residence he was district attorney of San Diego.  
  38. ^ "Former State Bar President Called" (jpg). Santa Ana Register. 13 Jan 1933. p. 1. Retrieved 28 Jul 2015 – via Los Angeles, Jan. 13.--(UP)--William J. Hunsaker, former president of the Los Angeles and California Bar associations, and district attorney of San Diego county from 1883 to 1885, died at his home here early today at the age of 77, the victim of a heart attack. Hunsaker was born in Contra Costa county and admitted to the bar in San Diego in 1876. He was active politically in Los Angeles from 1890 until his death. A son, Daniel M. Hunsaker, and two daughters, Mrs. Mary M. Brill and Mrs. Rose Steehler, survive him.  
  39. ^ Scott, Tony. The Stars of Hollywood Forever. p. 1962. ISBN 9781312916975. Retrieved 14 Aug 2015. HUNSAKER, William Jefferson (b. September 21, 1855 Contra Costa County, CA; d. 1933 Los Angeles, CA - Chandler Garden) Hunsaker was the fourth mayor of the city of San Diego, California and the first under the City Charter of 1887. The family moved to San Diego in 1869 and lived on a ranch in the Tia Juana Valley. Hunsaker's father served as the Sheriff of San Diego County from 1875 to 1876, having also been Sheriff of Contra Costa County. Hunsaker was admitted to practice law in 1876 and became very prominent in the Southwest and with business partner Tom Fitch, the pair represented Wyatt Earp in several cases. Hunsaker was elected San Diego District Attorney serving from 1882 to 1884 and in 1887 became Mayor of the city to serve a two year term but resigned in November 1888. Hunsaker moved to Los Angeles in 1892 and re-partnered with E.W. Britt in 1900 - they had been partners in San Diego up to 1892. In Los Angeles, Hunsaker was a long time member of the Chamber of Commerce and was made a Master Mason in September of 1903. Hunsaker died at his home located at 526 South Norton in Los Angeles, the two-story house still stands.

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Political offices
Preceded by
George P. Tebbetts
Mayor of San Diego, California
Succeeded by
Martin D. Hamilton (acting)