Hon. Byron Waters.-Not a few of the persons who have so stamped their individuality upon their age and shaped the great events of their time that their names are inseparably interwoven in history, and whose lives and deeds stand out as milestones making the march of the world’s progress, are self-made men. These characters, by their inherent strength, indomitable will, resistless energy and persistent industry, surmount obstacles and overcome opposition that would dishearten and crush lesser spirits and rise to the summit of human attainment. In this struggling with adversity are developed a power of mind and fertility of resource which make them intellectual athletes in the arena of personal endeavor and enable them to outstrip their fellows reared amid more favorable surroundings. To this class belongs the subject of this memoir.
He was born at Canton, Cherokee County, Georgia, in June, 1849; and in his veins is mingled the best blood of the empire States of the North and the South, his father having been a native of New York and his mother of Georgia. While yet in his teens young Waters experienced the horrors incident to the most gigantic civil war of modern times, and felt the devastating effects of Sherman’s victorious invading army on his memorable march to the sea.
In 1867 Mr. Waters came to California and lived for a time with his uncle, the late James Waters, Sr., on his ranch in Old San Bernardino. Deciding to enter the legal profession, he commenced the study of law in April 1869, in the office of Judge H. C. Rolfe, and subsequently continued his studies with Judge H. M. Willis. He rapidly acquired legal knowledge; and was admitted to practice in the courts of California in January, 1871, and so thorough had been his preparation that he at once took a high rank in his profession, which position he has maintained with increasing honors and distinction as the years pass. The distinctive features of Mr. Waters’ professional character which have won for him enviable success and placed him in the front ranks as a member of the Pacific coast bar, are his peculiar faculty to perceive at a glance and grasp those cardinal points and controlling elements in a legal problem upon which depends the issue in controversy; the thorough mastery of his case in all its details before entering the courtroom; his sound legal judgment; his habit of sharply contesting every legal point, for he is a forensic fighter; and his conscientious devotion to the interests of his client. Though not a great orator in the popular sense, he is a fluent, lucid and forcible speaker, carrying conviction by the clear-cut logic of his arguments. As a counselor he has few equals and no superiors. Mr. Waters is an inveterate worker, performing more labor at the desk and in the court-room than most men could execute or endure. His practice is one of the largest and most lucrative in the State.
Though not an aspirant for political honors, his superior ability received early recognition in San Bernardino County by his election to the General Assembly in 1877, where from the opening of the session he was the recognized leader of the Democratic side of the House, and before its close stood at the head of that legislative body. The State reputation, which he there gained for talent and unquestioned official integrity, made him the popular candidate for delegate at large to the Constitutional Convention, to which he was chosen the year following, receiving the largest vote of all. Though one of the youngest members of that body of California’s most eminent men, Mr. Waters thorough knowledge of constitutional law, his exceptional powers as a debater and his intuitive forecast of the future growth and requirements of this great commonwealth, have given him a commanding position in the convention. His strenuous adherence to and advocacy of his opinions temporarily cost him some of his popularity, but time and the subsequent workings of the constitutional provisions which he sternly opposed have demonstrated that he was right.
In 1881 Mr. Waters organized the Farmers’ Exchange Bank of San Bernardino, now one of the leading financial institutions of Southern California, and was for several years its president, managed its affairs with the same marked success that has characterized his career as a lawyer. Retiring from the bank to resume his profession, his legal business has been steadily on the increase, both in volume and importance, until he is one of the hardest-worked men in the California bar. In 1886 the Democratic Party selected him as their candidate of the State ticket for Supreme Judge, for which office he was beaten by a small majority. Mr. Waters’ scrupulous honesty in all relations in life and his professional courtesy have won for him the highest respect and esteem of the people of the State and his brethren of the bar. Although one of the ablest and most successful men of his profession, he is modest and unpretentious in manner, entirely free from ostentation, candid, practical, self-poised and of strong individuality; a man who possesses the courage of his convictions and defends his opinions fearlessly; he is a stern and persistent opponent, but a kind and magnanimous conqueror and a true and constant friend.
In 1873 Mr. Waters was married to Miss Louisa Brown, a native of San Bernardino, California, and a most estimable lady. They have a bright and interesting family, who share with them their elegant home two miles south of the city of San Bernardino.