Waste family history


Chief Justice William Harrison Waste, Part 2


"During his seven years of higher education, Waste had made his home in Berkeley, earning much of his way working for local newspapers. He began practicing law in Berkeley, later moving his office to Oakland. His first retainer was a silver dollar which he promptly spent as he needed the money. Waste later said he had wished a hundred times he had kept that first dollar earned as an attorney. In 1896 and 1897 he had a partner, John W. Stetson, but in 1898 he returned to practicing alone.

The young lawyer engaged immediately in politics and civic activities. He participated in the founding of the Berkeley Public Library, becoming its first president. He assisted in founding the Epworth University Methodist Church, taking an active part in its leadership for the rest of his life. The fact that Waste was not a man of short-lived enthusiasms is borne out by his thirty-seven years' service as president of the Berkeley Y.M.C.A., which he also helped found.

Waste was elected an Asemblyman in 1902 and 1904, serving the thirty-fifth and thirty-sixth session of the Legislature, which enacted the first juvenile court laws in the United States, introduced probation for adult offenders, regulated party primary elections, prohibited sale of liquor near public schools, regulated child labor and passed a compulsory education law.

After practicing law just over ten years, Waste was appointed by Governor Pardee to the Superior Court in Alameda County on April 13, 1905. He remained on the bench the remaining thirty-five years of his life, fourteen of them on the Superior Court.

In January, 1919, he was appointed the Presiding Justice of the District Court of Appeal, First District, by Governor Wiliam D. Stephens, succeeding Thomas J. Lennon who had been elevated to the State Supreme Court. His associates on this court, Frank H. Kerrigan and John E. Richards, both later becoming Supreme Court Justices.

Nearly three years later when Angellotti resigned as Chief Justice, Governor Stephens in November, 1921, appointed Shaw Chief Justice, and Waste to take Shaw's place as an Associate Justice. The other Associate Justices at that time were Lawlor, Wilbur, Lennon, Sloane and Shurtleff. Waste served as an Associate Justice five years under Chief Justices Shaw, Wilbur and Myers.

Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court

The California Supreme Court around 1930

(click on the image for larger version)

In January, 1926, upon the resignation of Myers, Waste was appointed Chief Justice by his friend of many years, Governor Friend W. Richardson. His fourteen years as Chief Justice have been exceeded in length only by Beatty and Gibson.

Several of Waste's predecessors resigned from the Court to get in on the higher emoluments of private practice. Waste apparently had no urge to follow in this tradition, preferring judicial labors.

Waste believed that the courts should be close to the people. A Supreme Court clerk said Waste was easier to talk to than half of the lawyers who came in the office.

The California Supreme Court around 1933

(click on the image for larger version)

Waste became a proficient presiding officer. A fluent speaker with a gift of sensing that which was appropriate to the occasion, he displayed fine authority whether presiding over the Supreme Court, wielding the gavel as president of the Commonwealth Club, or greeting strangers at the door of his church. He was dignified without any airs. Reference to him by the friends of the years as "Bill", "Will", or "Billy", never suggested taking liberties. In his later years it was not uncommon to see him in sweater and slacks as he watered the lawn of his Spruce Street home at the end of the day, and graciously nodded to the "Hi, Judge" from the paper boy passing on his bicycle. This characterized Waste's genuine interest in youth. An associate once remarked that Waste's favorite judicial duty was the admitting of young men to the practice of law.


My great-grandmother Mary Ewing Waste

Mary J. Ewing, my great-grandmother

Two years after receiving his law degree, Waste married Mary J. Ewing, of an old Virginia family from Lee County. They had two children, William E. and Eugenia McIntosh (Mrs. Jean Ward). Mrs. Waste died in 1927.

William E. Waste, a construction executive, had a hand in many important construction and industrial projects, including the building of Boulder (Hoover) Dam, and supervising a World War II shipyard in Marin County. He was the Executive Vice-President of the Bechtel Corporation in San Francisco. Like his father, he engaged in many fraternal and community service projects. In 1937, Waste, a past-grand commander of California Knights Templar, installed his son as Commander of the Berkeley Commandery.

In 1932, Waste married Lucille Miller Scoonover, a native of Belton, Texas, widow of Frank M. Scoonover, a Berkeley businessman. She died February 20, 1941, surviving Waste by only eight months."

Continue to part 3.

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