William A. Harris, attorney-at-law and a member of the firm of Harris & Gregg, was born in 1854, in Tennessee. He was educated in the schools of that State; studied law in Memphis with Colonel George Gantt and W. W. McDowell, both distinguished members of the Tennessee bar, and was admitted to practice at the remarkably early age of nineteen.
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On attaining his majority, after two years of practice in his own state, he came to California, and located in San Bernardino in 1875, and has practiced his profession here ever since, excepting two years spent in Leadville, Colorado, where he combined mining and law practice. In 1877 he was elected District Attorney of San Bernardino County and served with distinction. Soon after coming here he formed a law partnership with Hon. John W. Satterwhite, which continued some years; afterward he was associated with C. W. Allen several years, and in 1886 the present partnership was formed with Hon. F. W. Gregg, who had recently been on the bench in Arizona.
The firm of Harris & Gregg is one of the strongest in legal attainments and ability in Southern California; and their law practice, among the largest and most lucrative in San Bernardino County, is steadily growing. Mr. Harris is noted among his brethren at the bar for his forensic eloquence, and as a successful trial lawyer before a jury. He has been professionally connected with some of the most celebrated cases tried in this part of the state. Of this class was the Marlette case, the People versus Mattie Pennman, the defendant having killed Alfred Sullivan, a dancing teacher, in San Bernardino. The homicide and the trial created great interest and excitement in the community, and was widely published and discussed by the newspapers. Mr. Harris was the attorney for the defense. The woman was acquitted by an exceptionally intelligent jury against a strong public sentiment. Harris and Gregg were also attorneys for defense in a noted mining case -Doe versus Oro Grande Mining Company tried in the winter of 1888-’89, forty-six days being consumed in the trial. The amount involved was $330,000, claimed by the plaintiff; the verdict was for $25,000. On appeal the case was reversed by the Supreme Court, and a complete victory gained by defendants.
The firm of Harris & Gregg was retained, in 1889, by the San Bernardino Board of Trade in the case brought by that organization before the Inter-State Commerce Commission charging the Transcontinental Railroad Association with unlawful discrimination against San Bernardino. A number of the most eminent lawyers of the East were retained by the association as opposing counsel. This case is of national importance, as establishing a precedent. In 1886 Mr. Harris was presented by the United States Government, under authority of an act of Congress, with an elegant gold medal, elaborately embellished and appropriately inscribed, as a reward for life-saving from the Pacific ocean during that year. The medal bears the date of August 2, 1886. It is highly prized by its owner as a memento.
Mr. Harris has taken an active and efficient part in local politics, and is one of the most eloquent Democratic stump speakers in Southern California. In spite of the pressure of professional labor, he has given considerable thought to the importance of the fruit productions of San Bernardino County, and has delivered public addresses on that subject on several occasions. He married an Ohio lady, Miss Nettie Allen, in San Bernardino. He is a member of the State and County Bar Associations.