Sketch Compiled by Stanley Stevens

Stephen Mallory White

A Biographical Sketch 
Compiled by Stanley D. Stevens
Pajaro Valley’s “Favorite Son”
 “perhaps the most eminent of the State’s native sons.”
“the memory of California’s greatest son” — Mayor of Los Angeles

Who was this “Favorite Son”?

Stephen M. White was born in San Francisco in 1853,  attended a private school in Santa Cruz county from the time he was thirteen years old until reaching sixteen. In his earlier boyhood he had been taught at home by his father’s sister, an extremely good woman, of superior and cultivated mind. At sixteen he was sent to St. Ignatius College, San Francisco, where he remained a year and a half. He then went to Santa Clara College, from which he was graduated in June, 1871, He studied law at Watsonville and Santa Cruz. He pursued his studies for about ten months in the office of Augustine W. Blair in Watsonville, about twelve months with Albert Hagan in Santa Cruz, and some eight months with Charles Bruce Younger Sr. in Santa Cruz. He was admitted to the bar of the Supreme Court at Sacramento on the 14th of April, 1874.

After being admitted to the Bar, he went to Los Angeles to practice. Old lawyers, remembering the days of their youth, can imagine his position, among strangers, without influence or prestige, yet undertaking the difficult feat of gaining a foothold. There was much in his favor, as he was an eloquent speaker, a fluent writer and a quick debater. Yet even with these talents there seemed no opening. For six months he struggled along, then decided it was useless to wait longer and began to think of removing elsewhere. After his mind was fully made up to investigate other towns, a man invited him to deliver an address at the celebration of St. Patrick’s day, March I7. Having decided to leave, he first declined; but, on being importuned, consented to remain and speak. At the conclusion of his able address to a very large assembly he was congratulated by hundreds and was told by many that he had opened a road to fame. This event changed his entire future. He remained, soon won a case, and from that day on had as large a practice as he could handle. An honorable service as district attorney was followed by his election to the United States Senate, where his efforts in behalf of the San Pedro harbor bill gave him national prominence.

  • White was first elected as District Attorney of Los Angeles County (1883-1884 term).
  • He was the chairman of the National Democratic Convention at St. Louis (1884) which nominated Stephen Grover Cleveland, who defeated James G. Blaine for the Presidency, 1884-1888.
  • Elected to the California State Senate (March 1887 to March 1889).
  • Soon after White became state senator, Governor Washington Bartlett died in office (September 12, 1887), and Lieutenant-Governor Robert W. Waterman became Governor.
  • Stephen M. White, who had been elected President Pro-Tem of the Senate (27th & 28th Sessions, 1887-1889), became acting Lieutenant-Governor (1887-1891) on the advancement of Waterman.
  • He was elected to the U. S. Senate, January 18, 1893 — at the age of forty, and served the 6-year term (March 4, 1893 — March 3, 1899). He was the first “California-born” to represent California in the U. S. Senate.
  • White was also chairman of the Democratic National Convention at Chicago (1896), that nominated William Jennings Bryan. This was the convention at which Bryan gave his famous “Cross of Gold” speech.
  • White was a Trustee of the State Normal School at Los Angeles, now UCLA, 1887-1893; and, a Regent of the University of California, 1899-1901.
  • White died at his home in Los Angeles on February 21, 1901.
  • He studied law at Watsonville and Santa Cruz

White’s connection with Santa Cruz is highlighted in some correspondence that has been preserved at the University of California, Santa Cruz. One example is:

Watsonville   April 22d 1874

Mr. Younger

         I drop you this line to inform you that I am still above board and I will probably be in Santa Cruz next Monday. You noticed, no doubt, that things went all right in Sacramento, as regards my application.  Heydenfeldt has just written to my father offering $4000 for the St. John; he says that Gregory has written “hopefully” regarding the probable result of the litigation, but that he [Heydenfeldt] desires to get rid of the matter & hence makes the offer.  My father replied that he was not prepared to recede from his former proposal.

Yours  etc
/s/   Stephen M. White

[Source:  Letters of Coleman Purcell Younger & Charles Bruce Younger, Sr., Hihn-Younger Archive, Special Collections, University Library, University of California, Santa Cruz.  Book 2B, Letter 137.]

[Transcriber’s Notes: 

  1. The relationship of Charles Bruce Younger Sr., and Stephen Mallory White, starts before April 1874.  It ended when Younger travelled to Los Angeles to attend White’s funeral on February 23, 1901.  White “read law” in Younger’s law office, and as will be seen in the Notes for Letter 140, his training was, among other fields of law, ingrossed by Titus Hale’s two-year study of the land owners’ Titles to Rancho San Andreas (Santa Cruz County). 

Important Suit.

            An action has been commenced in the District Court of Santa Cruz county, C. B. Younger as attorney for Edward Briody against Titus Hale, and about one hundred and fifty others, to obtain partition among the owners of the Rancho San Andreas. This ranch is situated near Watsonville, and contains nearly ten thousand acres. The partition of this ranch will add much to the prosperity of this county.  [Source:  Santa Cruz Sentinel  1872 Aug 3  3:2]

       And, when White had absorbed the essentials, Younger and others of the local Bar recommended him to be admitted to practice before the California courts.  His “still above board” comment was an opportunity for White to announce to Younger that he would be in Santa Cruz soon and would stop by for a visit.

       White’s reference in his letter to “things went all right in Sacramento, as regards my application” — he was reporting to his mentor that his application for admission to the Bar (recommended by Blair, Hagan, and Younger) was successful.

            Stephen M. White of Santa Cruz, upon the recommendation of C. B. Younger, Albert Hagan and A. W. Blair has been admitted to the bar of the Supreme Court. [Source:  Santa Cruz Sentinel  1874 Apr 18  3:1]

       2.  Solomon Heydenfeldt (1851-1857) was Justice of the California Supreme Court.                                    .

       3.  “My father” was William Francis White, a Watsonville land owner, and in the 1879 campaign he was the statewide candidate for California Governor on the Workingman’s ticket, his opponents being George C. Perkins and Hugh J. Glenn.  [Perkins became Governor.]