Joseph R. Knowland, US Congress

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Joseph Russell Knowland

Birthplace: Alameda, Alameda County, California, United States
Death: February 01, 1966 (92)
Piedmont, Alameda County, California, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Joseph Knowland and Hannah Bailey Knowland
Husband of Emelyn Knowland; Elinor Knowland and Clarice Knowland
Father of William F. Knowland, U.S. Senator; Elinor Lyon and Joseph Russell Knowland
Brother of Sadie Coe; Lucille Hill and Hollis Knowland

Managed by: Chad Bouldin
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About Joseph R. Knowland, US Congress

Joseph Russell Knowland (August 5, 1873 - February 1, 1966) was an American politician and newspaper publisher. He served as a member of the United States House of Representatives from California and was owner, editor and publisher of the Oakland Tribune. He was the father of United States Senator William F. Knowland.

Early years

Knowland was born in Alameda, California to Joseph Knowland (1833–1912) and Hannah Bailey Russell (1832–1921), who were married in San Francisco on 13 May 1863. He had two sisters, Sadie (1864–1905) and Lucille (1870–1926), and one brother, Hollis, who died in infancy.

"JR", as he was known to his friends, attended Alameda Park Street Primary School, Hopkins Academy, a private school in Oakland, and entered with the class of 1895, the University of the Pacific at San Jose. The school was later renamed College of the Pacific of Stockton. From an early age he had an interest in journalism and history. His father being from New York and his mother from Maine, Knowland was raised under the influence of northern political belief. He wrote stories for the Alameda Argus and Oakland Enquirer on California history and Republican politics.

At 18, Knowland joined the Native Sons of the Golden West, which he served as Grand President in 1909. He organized the California Historical Landmarks League and was its chairman from 1902 to 1906. He was chairman of the Landmarks Committee of the Native Sons of the Golden West, 1902-1962.

He became engaged in his father's wholesale lumber and shipping business. Knowland was sent by his father in 1888 to Oregon to rebuild the Gardiner Mill. He went to Jackson, Amador County, serving as an envoy of his father. Joseph R. Knowland managed the Kennedy Mining and Milling Company. In the fall of 1891, he left the Sierra to help his ailing father in Alameda. In 1893, he was appointed to a committee to create a panorama of Alameda for the California Midwinter Exposition of 1894, held in San Francisco.



Knowland joined the Alameda Good Government Club in early 1895. He was appointed, in 1896, to the Alameda Library Board of Trustees. He was sought by the Alameda County Central Committee of the Republican Party to run for the State Assembly in 1898. Asked later in life why he entered politics, Knowland would reply, "I was one of these young men that took to politics and was interested." He was a member of the State Assembly from 1899 to 1903. Knowland chaired the Assembly committee to investigate the conditions of the Chinese slave women in San Francisco. He served in the California State Senate from 1903 to 1904, when he resigned, having been elected as a Republican to the Fifty-eighth Congress to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Victor H. Metcalf. President Theodore Roosevelt had appointed Metcalf to be Secretary of Commerce and Labor.

Knowland was reelected to the Fifty-ninth and to the four succeeding Congresses, serving from September 24, 1904 to March 3, 1915. His 3rd Congressional District included Alameda, Contra Costa and Solano counties. The U.S. Army's Benicia Arsenal and the U.S. Naval Shipyard at Mare Island were located in his district. Knowland had a keen interest in the military, most especially the U.S. Navy. He worked in Congress for capital ships to be built on the West Coast. He was an advocate for a two-ocean battleship fleet.

The population increased in Oakland and Alameda County after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire. New district boundaries were created after the 1910 Census. In 1911, Alameda County became the 6th Congressional District. During this period, Knowland fought for free American tolls for the Panama Canal.

Knowland sought to succeed George C. Perkins in the U.S. Senate. In 1914, he won the Republican primary over Samuel M. Shortridge. However, he was unsuccessful in the general election, a three-way race with Francis J. Heney of the Progressive Party and the winner, James D. Phelan, Democrat.

The Oakland Tribune

Knowland became owner, editor, president and publisher of The Oakland Tribune on 3 November 1915. He wrote, "It is perfectly understood that what it [the Tribune] does, rather than what it promises, will determine the true measure of its worth; and with this understanding, the Tribune, under its new control, girds to its work." Many years and court battles with Hermina Peralta Dargie (widow of owner William E. Dargie) passed before Knowland had full control of the Tribune. Knowland built the Tribune Tower, a city landmark at 13th and Franklin Streets. He had a great interest in restoring the California Missions. This had begun in 1903, with Mission San Antonio De Padua. He was a historical advisor during the 1927 California State Park Survey.

In 1932, Knowland went to Washington and persuaded President Herbert Hoover and the Reconstruction Finance Corporation to advance $62 million for the completion of the San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge. He created, with Bruno Albert Forsterer and Joseph Blum, the Franklin Investment Company in 1936 (later the Franklin Credit Union). In 1937, he attained the status of 33rd Degree Mason, Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite. Knowland was a member of the Finance Committee of the Golden Gate International Exposition of 1939-1940. In 1941, he authored California: A Landmark History. He was the political mentor of Earl Warren; from assistant Oakland City Attorney to Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court.

Knowland served on the California State Park Commission 1934-1960 and was chairman 1938-1960. He was appointed by Governor Earl Warren as chairman of the California Centennial Commission, 1948 - 1950. Knowland was honored September 9, 1951 by the City of Oakland and the State of California, with Joseph Knowland State Arboretum and Park in Oakland. He served as chairman of the Oakland Centennial, 1952, and the Alameda County Centennial, 1953.

Knowland was proud of the political career of his son, United States Senator William F. Knowland 1945-1959. Bill served as Senate Majority Leader, 1953–1955 and Senate Minority Leader, 1955 - 1959. The only mistake Knowland felt his son made was his 1958 run and defeat for Governor of California.

He attended his first Republican National Convention in 1904. He attended the GOP conventions as a delegate or newspaperman until 1964. Oakland became a one-newspaper city on September 1, 1950, when William Randolph Hearst closed his Oakland Post-Enquirer. The Oakland Tribune's radio station KLX began operation in 1921 and would be on the air until its sale in 1959.

Personal life

Knowland met Elinor (Ellie) J. Fife (1873–1908) of Tacoma, Washington while they were students at University of the Pacific. Ellie was the daughter of Tacoma businessman W. H. Fife. Knowland and Ellie were married on April 2, 1894 in Tacoma. Three children were born to this union: Elinor Knowland Lion (1895–1978); Joseph Russell "Russ" Knowland, Jr. (1901–1961); and US Senator William F. Knowland (1908–1974). Shortly after the birth of William F. Knowland, Ellie Knowland died.

Knowland, a young widower with children, met Emelyn S. West (1884–1950) of West Lynne, Virginia. On September 28, 1909 they were wed in Chicago, Illinois. Emelyn Knowland was a loving stepmother and active in her husband's social and political life. Emelyn died July 14, 1950, during the California Centennial. Knowland's third wife, Clarice E. "Cookie" Cook (1902–1979), was an officer of the Native Daughters of the Golden West. Knowland and Cook were married on April 6, 1952 in Stockton, California. A shared interest in California history made a happy marriage for Knowland's twilight years. Knowland remained active in his old age, coming each day to the Tribune.


On February 1, 1966, Joseph Russell Knowland died at 4:25 p.m. in his 25 Seaview Avenue residence in Piedmont. His wife Clarice with granddaughters, Emelyn K. Jewett and Josephine L. Church, were at his bedside.

February 2, 1966 the Tribune's headline was "Joseph R. Knowland Dead". Joseph R. Knowland was praised by Republicans and Democrats. California Governor Edmund G. Pat Brown said, " Knowland, strongly believed in California...the State he loved so well." The public funeral of J.R. Knowland was held at the First Methodist Church and the private family service at Mountain View Cemetery Chapel in Oakland. He was cremated at Mountain View Cemetery Crematory and is inurned with his third wife, Clarice, in Serenity Section, Tier N-4, Number 3 at Chapel of Memories in Oakland, California.

Fraternal organizations and Board memberships

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Joseph R. Knowland, US Congress's Timeline

August 5, 1873
Alameda, Alameda County, California, United States
June 26, 1908
Alameda, CA, USA
February 1, 1966
Age 92
Piedmont, Alameda County, California, United States