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24th Governor of
California, March 15, 1917 - January 9, 1923

Born:† December 26, 1859, in Eaton, Ohio

Died:† April 24, 1944, in Los Angeles, California

Marriage:† Flora Rawson (1891), 1 daughter


An appointment to the position of lieutenant governor followed by the resignation of the governor led to William D. Stephens becoming the 24th governor of California, a position he held for almost six years.


Early Life

William Stephens was born and raised in Eaton, Ohio. After graduating from high school, he worked as a schoolteacher while he studied law. At the age of 21 he left home to spend several years on railroad construction jobs in various states.



Stephens ended up in Los Angeles in 1887 and went into the grocery business, eventually (1902) founding the wholesale and retail firm of Carr and Stephens. As a businessman, Stephens became active in civic affairs in Los Angeles, even serving as acting mayor for a few weeks. He worked on the 1909 Los Angeles harbor plan, and on the Owens River Aqueduct project.

In 1910 Stephens was elected to the U.S. Congress where he was serving his third term when Governor Hiram Johnson called him back to California to fill the lieutenant governor position left vacant by the death of John Eshleman in April 1916. When Johnson resigned as governor on March 15, 1917, to take a U.S. Senate seat, Stephens was there to finish out the term.



Stephens became governor when the U.S. was preparing for war. Defense measures were a high priority. A selective service program began drafting men for military duty in the First World War. In December 1917 the governorís mansion in Sacramento was bombed. Members of the Industrial Workers of the World were indicted for the crime, and Stephens became a foe of the I.W.W.

After completing Johnsonís term, Stephens won the 1918 election for a full four-year term as governor. He is credited with reorganizing the executive branch to provide more efficient government.


Later Years

Stephens lost the Republican nomination for governor in 1922, and moved back to Los Angeles. There he opened a law office and kept active in city affairs until his death at the age of 85.


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