About Friend Richardson, Governor
Friend William Richardson (born William Richardson) (December 1, 1865 – September 6, 1943), was an American newspaper publisher and politician. A member of the Progressive Party and later the Republican Party, Richardson was elected as the California State Treasurer from 1915 to 1923, and shortly afterwards as the 25th governor of California from 1923 to 1927. Richardson's governorship marked a sharp reversal in policies from previous administrations, rolling back many of the Progressive reforms and state governmental agencies put in place by previous governors Hiram Johnson and William Stephens.
William Richardson was born in December 1865 to William and Rhoda Richardson at Friends Colony, Michigan, a Quaker township located outside of Ann Arbor. Early in his life, William legally changed his first name to "Friend", the traditional Quaker greeting. In his young adult life, Richardson worked as a county clerk and law librarian, and following his move to San Bernardino, California, married Augusta Felder in 1891, whom he would have three children with. Five years later, Richardson became the owner and newspaper editor of The San Bernardino Times Index.
In 1900, Richardson relocated to Berkeley where he purchased within a year The Berkeley Daily Gazette and became active in the California Press Association. Due to greater name recognition, Richardson was increasingly noticed by the state government. In 1901, Richardson was appointed as Superintendent of the State Printing Office with the consent of the California State Legislature and Governor Henry Gage. The Richardson family relocated to Sacramento where he assumed state printing responsibilities, while at the same time, continuing to own his newspapers in both San Bernardino and Berkeley.
In 1914, Richardson officially entered politics, running as a Progressive for California State Treasurer. Richardson easily defeated his Socialist and Prohibitionist rivals by a voting gap of 66 percent. Following the Progressive Party's collapse, Richardson again won a second term as Treasurer in 1918, this time as a Republican, and again won a landslide victory against his Socialist and Prohibitionist rivals by garnering 78.2 percent of the vote.
After two successful terms as state treasurer, Richardson set his sights on the governorship as the Republican Party's nomination in 1922. Running against incumbent William Stephens in the party's primary election, Richardson campaigned on a conservative platform, capitalizing on electoral fatigue with Progressive-minded politics. The campaign worked, successfully defeating Governor Stephens and effectively returned the state Republican Party to a more conservative bent.
With Stephens out of the 1922 general elections, Richardson faced Democrat Thomas L. Woolwine, the popular District Attorney of Los Angeles County. Amongst Richardson's supporters in the election were the Ku Klux Klan, which deeply opposed Woolwine's Catholicism, as well as being an organization that was rumored to count Richardson as a member. His campaign manager in the election, California State Assemblyman Frank Merriam, would himself become governor in 1934. In the end, Richardson triumphed in the election, defeating Woolwine by nearly 24 percent of the vote.
Richardson began his governorship on January 9, 1923, promising a no-frills administration to deeply cut governmental expenditures. Despite his past affiliation with the Progressive Party, Richardson blamed both the party and its Progressive movement with excess in his inaugural speech, replacing the Southern Pacific Railroad political machine with a Progressive machine. "In 1911 the people did a good job of political house cleaning," Richardson spoke, alluding the Hiram Johnson and his Progressive majority in the Legislature. "During the past few years another great political machine has come into power which has cost the people millions of dollars. It will be necessary to first wreck this political machine before the state can be put on an economical basis and the government again handed back to the people."
Richardson embarked on a program to eliminate "unnecessary boards and officers, by consolidation, and by doing away with overlapping functions," calling it a massive waste of taxpayers money. In his various modifications to the state bureauacracy, Richardson appointed various individuals that were favorable to corporate interests.
An electoral backlash against his deep-rooted conservatism came during the 1924 legislative elections, where Progressives regained control of the California State Legislature, beginning a legislative bulwark against more proposed cuts to the state government and increased corporate influence. A proposal by Richardson to close two state universities, believing that education had become too costly for state coffers, was successfully defeated by the Progressives. Meanwhile, Richardson blocked the Progressives' passage of a bill in the Legislature to create a professional State Bar of California with a pocket veto in 1925.
As the Legislature and Richardson thwarted each other's political agendas, the governor attended to other duties outside of the political realm. Richardson personally accompanied Swedish Prince Gustaf Adolf and Princess Louise Mountbatten on a portion of their tour through Southern California in 1926.
That same year, the increasingly embattled Richardson faced a crucial primary election. Growing anger at Richardson's overly-conservative administration led to the progressive wing of the Republican Party supporting C. C. Young, the lieutenant governor under both William Stephens and Richardson. Young emerged victorious in the primary vote, depriving Richardson of the chance to run in the general election.
Defeated by his own party, Richardson left the governorship as his term expired on January 4, 1927. One accomplishment to his various eliminations and consolidations to the state government was a surplus of $20 million in the state treasury.
Richardson returned to newspaper publishing, becoming the chief publisher of the Alameda Times Star in 1931. He became politically active again in the 1930s, though in appointed positions. He served as the State Building and Loan Commissioner under James Rolph from 1932 to 1934, and later as the State Superintendent of Banks from 1934 to 1939 under his former campaign manager in 1922, Frank Merriam. He retired in 1939.
In July 1943, Richardson suffered a heart attack from which he never recovered, and died at his Berkeley home September 6, 1943. His ashes are interred at the Chapel of the Chimes in Oakland.
Throughout his life, Richardson was a member of the Freemasons, the Knights Templar, the Shriners, the Order of the Eastern Star, the Elks, the Kiwanis, the Moose, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, Rotary and the Woodmen.
Richardson Grove State Park in Humboldt County is named after Richardson.