W.H. HOLMES. – The subject of this sketch was born in the year 1850 in Polk county, Oregon. He came of sturdy pioneer stock, who were among the earliest settlers of this state, and to whom he is indebted for those qualities of mind and body which fit him to encounter the rugged contests of life or the arduous and difficult duties of his chosen profession. His early years were spent on the farm, engaged in the usual occupations of farm life; but his love of books drifted his mind towards other pursuits, and soon determined him to seek a liberal education, although educational advantages at that time were limited, consisting chiefly in common schools and academies. With this purpose, he availed himself of the best schools the country then afforded, and applied himself with untiring zeal to the acquisition of knowledge. Nor did he neglect to improve his opportunities in the great school of human experience, in which human nature is taught and exemplified and a practical knowledge of men and things acquired. In fact, it may be said that, from lessons thus learned, and the discipline so acquired by actual experience, often comes that nice tact, that keen discrimination, or that quick perception of the situation and its needs, as applied to the practical affairs of life, which is of such invaluable advantage to the lawyer, and to which he often owes much of his success and reputation.
As a result, when at twenty-two years of age he became a student in the law office of Thayer & Williams of Portland, his mind had not only been disciplined by study and liberalized by extensive reading, but it had been also disciplined in the severe school of human experience, which greatly aided him in grasping the leading principles of the law, and of understanding its training as applied to the complicated affairs of practical life; and, by habits of sobriety, diligence, and close application to his studies, he passed a creditable examination, and was admitted to the bar in the class of 1874. He began the practice of the law at Dallas, the county seat of his native county, and by strict attention to business soon acquired some local success, but, impressed with the conviction that he could increase his practice, and that Salem offered a better opportunity to extend it, and for the exercise of his talents, he removed there in 1875, and devoted himself exclusively to his profession. Although at this time there was a good deal of talent at that bar, he did not fail to soon obtain recognition and clients; and, by his close application and mastery of the principles to be applied to his cases, he secured the confidence of an increasing number of clients, and won the respect of the bench and bar.
In 1886 he was married to Miss Josephine Lewis, who has proven a worthy help-meet in his struggles. His family consists of his wife and two promising girls. Like his father, Mr. Holmes in politics is a sturdy Democrat, and is earnestly devoted to upholding the principles of his party in the belief that, under proper auspices and through proper instrumentalities, its principles cannot fail to secure good government and the prosperity of the people. Democrat though he is, he is not so blind nor partisan as not to condemn error in principle or bad nominations in his own party, or to recognize merit, and laudable candidacy in his opponents. And at this time, there is probably no Democrat of his age in better standing in his party in this state, or who is capable of exerting a wider or more beneficial influence for its advancement, and success. The estimation in which he is held had been frequently exhibited by the confidence reposed in him, and the repeated offers of his political associates to make him the standard-bearer of their party principles in his county and district.
In 1882 he was nominated by his party for district attorney of the third judicial district; and, although the district was largely Republican, such was the general belief in his fitness for an honest discharge of the duties of this office, he was successful before the people. He served during the term for which he was elected; and such was the ability and fairness with which he conducted prosecutions, and the vigilance with which he watched the interests of the county and state, that there was a general desire for his retention at the close of his term of office; and, although his party tendered, he declined, a re-nomination, and returned to his private practice.
In 1887, without solicitation on his part or that of his friends, and without any dissenting voice by the court, he was appointed clerk of the supreme court, which office he now creditably fills.
In personal appearance, Mr. Holmes is a man of fine presence, tall, and with a military erectness. He has a vigorous constitution, which, by general good habits, he has preserved and by continuance in so doing will doubtless preserve unimpaired in old age. As a layer he is industrious and attentive, quick of perception, sound in judgment and careful with advice. In argument he is clear, earnest and impressive, discarding all display or mere rhetorical flash, presenting in an effective way the strong points of his case, and by the general justness of his legal propositions securing the confidence of the court. Upright and honest in his private character, necessarily these qualitative pervade his professional life; and to his credit thus far it may be said no rewards however tempting, whether of professional advancement or employment, have ever tempted him to deviate from the path of justice or honor, or to espouse the cause of vice or immorality.