About William Paul Dillingham
William Paul Dillingham (December 12, 1843 – July 12, 1923) was an American Republican politician from the state of Vermont.
The son of Vermont Governor Paul Dillingham, William P. Dillingham was born on December 12, 1843, in Waterbury, Vermont, where he later attended the public schools. Upon completing that system, he studied at Newbury Seminary and Kimball Union Academy in Meriden, New Hampshire. He later studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1867; he began to practice in his hometown not long after.
Dillingham's first post in public office was that of prosecuting attorney of Washington County, Vermont, where he served for four years from 1872 to 1876. He served concurrently as secretary of civil and military affairs for the last two years of his tenure in Washington County. In 1876, he was elected to the Vermont House of Representatives and then to the Vermont Senate in 1878 and 1880; he returned to the Vermont House in 1884. After his service as a legislator, Dillingham was appointed Vermont's tax commissioner for 1882-1888. In 1888, he was elected to one two-year term as the 42nd Governor of Vermont.
From 1890 to 1900, he served in various capacities, especially in educational institutions around the state. In 1900, Dillingham was elected to his first federal office, to fill the United States Senate seat of the late Justin Smith Morrill. Dillingham was reelected in 1903, 1909, 1914 and 1920, and served until his death on July 12, 1923, in Montpelier, Vermont.
Dillingham achieved prominence as the leading Progressive-era legislative spokesperson for restricting immigration from certain countries. His way of thinking, holding to rural ways of life, property ownership and literacy, combined with his fear that immigration threatened to transform the United States into a non-Protestant nation of cities full of disease, poverty, illiteracy and crime. From 1907 to 1911, Dillingham chaired (concurrently with his Senate duties) the United States Immigration Commission, also called the Dillingham Commission, which concluded that immigration from southern and eastern Europe posed a serious threat to American society and culture and should be greatly reduced in the future.
In 1903, Dillingham chaired a Senate subcommittee that investigated conditions in Alaska following the 1898 gold rush. During their trip, a new courthouse established near the Nushagak River village of Kanakanak was named in honor of the chairman and the surrounding community later adopted the name Dillingham, Alaska. Ironically, while the subcommittee traveled extensively throughout Alaska, Dillingham never set foot in the Bristol Bay salmon fishing community that still bears his name.
Dillingham lived at 7 West Street, Montpelier, Vermont while serving in the US Senate and until the end of his life. His former home was owned by Vermont College for more than 50 years, and served as a dormitory and as office space. It is now a private residence again. Upon his death, he was buried in the Village Cemetery in his hometown of Waterbury, Vermont.