William W. Earnest. Firmly entrenched in the American heart is the public school system, which, while not perfect perhaps, is continually being improved, largely as the result of the efforts of conscientious, intellectual leaders. The city of Champaign in its superintendent of schools has a well qualified, constructive man, a graduate of the University of Illinois and a thorough teacher as well as executive. He is William W. Earnest, who has occupied this responsible office for the past nine years.
William W. Earnest was born in Mississippi, October 1, 1863, one of a family of three children born to his parents, who were John W. and Julia J. (Woolley) Earnest. Both parents were natives of Illinois, the father born in Sangamon and the mother in Greene County. Both are now deceased, the death of the father occurring in 1902. He was one of the Argonauts who, in 1850, went to California in search of gold, of which he found enough to pay for his time, and he had many interesting experiences and adventures. From California he returned to Illinois, but afterward went to Mississippi and was engaged in managing sawmills there at the outbreak of the war between the states and found it impossible to escape from a situation embarrassing to a northern man until the opening of the Mississippi and Yazoo mines in the spring of 1864. Later on he followed the peaceful pursuits of agriculture in Macoupin County, Illinois.
William W. Earnest attended the public schools of Greenfield, and after completing the high school course and a college course in the Valparaiso University he was engaged for a number of years in teaching in country and village schools and in the management of the Western Normal College of Bushnell, Illinois, as well as in the superintendency of the city schools of Macomb. Afterward he entered the University of Illinois, from which institution he was graduated in 1908, shortly afterward accepting the superintendency of the city public schools of Champaign.
In many ways Mr. Earnest has proved his superior qualifications, not the least of these being his record for constructive service, he being in the lead in all hopeful and vitally important movements in relation to the efficiency of the schools. He is not only a man educationally trained but one of broad mind, social understanding and civic responsibility. He is popular with the teachers under his management and enjoys the confidence of parents and pupils. In his political affiliation Mr. Earnest has always been a Republican but practically takes little part in advancing the interests of any office seeker. Fraternally, he is a Mason and a member of the Presbyterian Church. In meeting Mr. Earnest the visitor receives an impression of strong individuality, conscientious acceptance of responsibility and unusual modesty as to his achievements.