William F. McKnight

Pages 296-297 - William F. McKnight maintained his home in Kent county during the entire period of his earnest and worthy like, and here he secured vantage-place as an able and representative member of the Michigan bar and also as a business man of exceptional ability and initiative. In the practice of his profession he was legal representative of divers large and important corporate interests, and at the time of his death he was president of the White River Timber Company, vice-president of the Miami Lumber Company and secretary and treasurer of the Dickie Mining Company. He was a member of one of Kent county’s oldest families and was born on the parental homestead farm in Cascade township, Kent county, Michigan, July 23, 1863, and his death occurred in his home city of Grand Rapids, May 19, 1918. He was a son of Thomas and Mary (Fitzpatrick) McKnight, both of whom were young when they came with their respective parents from their native Ireland to the United States, where they were reared and educated and where they passed the remainder of their lives, both families having gained pioneer precedence in Kent county, Michigan. Thomas McKnight, who became one of the substantial farmers and highly respected citizens of Kent County, was a Democrat in politics and he and his wife were zealous communicants of the Catholic church. Mr. McKnight was a son of John and Mary (Quinn) McKnight, who came from Ireland to the United States in 1833 and who established their residence in this county in 1845, James McKnight having here reclaimed and developed a productive farm in Cascade township, and he and his wife having been honored pioneer citizens of the county at the time of their death, their old homestead place having been that on which their grandson, William F., of this memoir, was born. In the public schools of his native county William F. McKnight continued his studies until he was sixteen years of age, and that he profited well by these advantages is shown in his having then passed the examination that proved him eligible for pedagogic services. Through his work as a teacher in the district schools he provided in large measure the funds that enabled him to complete a course in what is now Valparaiso University, at Valparaiso, Indiana, and in his graduation in that institution in 1884 he received the degree of Bachelor of Arts. Thereafter he served for a time as superintendent of the public schools of Kankakee, Illinois, and in the meanwhile he gave close attention to the study of law. In 1885 he entered the law department of the University of Michigan, from which he received his degree of Bachelor of Laws in 1887, his admission to the bar of his native state having occurred at Grand Rapids early in the following year, and this city continued the central stage of his professional activities during the remainder of his life. In 1890 he was elected prosecuting attorney of Kent county, and his service in this office was characteristically efficient and loyal. Mr. McKnight was one of the foremost Democrats in the United States, and was, indeed, the most prominent member of that party in the state of Michigan. He had a wide acquaintance among public men, having been privileged to number among his personal friends many noted men, among whom were the late President Woodrow Wilson and the hardly less distinguished William Jennings Bryan. At the time of Mr. Bryan’s first candidacy for the presidency Mr. McKnight, with Senators White, of California, and Blackburn, of Kentucky, was appointed on a committee to wait upon the Nebraska statesman and arrange the time and place for the announcement of his nomination. Mr. McKnight was a candidate for election to congress in 1896. He was a member of the American Bar Association, Association of Commerce, Peninsular Club, Highlands Country Club, Knights of Columbus and Ancient Order of Hibernians. For seven years he was a member of Company B, Grand Rapids, a battery of the Michigan National Guard. Mr. McKnight was widely known throughout the United States and the state of Michigan, and his reputation among the members of the bar was that of a practitioner who always observed the highest ethics of his profession. His personal excellence endeared him to a large circle of friends, while his universal kindness and courtesy commanded the respect and esteem of the community at large. The following appeared in the Grand Rapids Herald at the time of his death: "He was a man of strong talents and unusual capacity. Until ill health attacked him he was always prominent in commercial affairs – always ready for a man’s part in the battle of life. He was successful in his chosen profession of law – successful in a diversity of commercial enterprises – successful as a maker of warm friends. His passing will be registered amid sincere regrets, not only in Grand Rapids, but throughout the state." Mr. McKnight was married on August 20, 1907, to Miss Anna Caulfield, who succeeded him as president and vice-president of the various lumber and mining companies, and who special mention is made on other pages of this work.

Transcriber: Ann Ed
Created: 22 October 2003
URL: http://kent.migenweb.net/white1924/personal/mcknightwf.html