Arthur G. Fisk

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Arthur G. Fisk
Arthur Fisk Pic wiki.JPG
34th Speaker of the California State Assembly
In office
January 1903 – March 1903
Preceded by Cornelius W. Pendleton
Succeeded by Frank C. Prescott
Personal details
Born November 23, 1868[1]
Baltimore, MD
Died February 25, 1938(1938-02-25) (aged 69)
Los Angeles
Political party Republican

Arthur G. Fisk (1868–1938), was a U.S. Republican politician and at age 35 was elected as Speaker of the California State Assembly.[2] He also served as Postmaster of San Francisco during the 1906 earthquake, and U.S. Commissioner for Northern California in his later years. At age 65, he was sentenced to federal prison for embezzling bail bond money under his control.

Born in Baltimore, Maryland, Arthur Fisk was brought to Santa Barbara, California as an infant by his parents in 1869. His family soon thereafter moved to San Francisco, where Fisk grew up and attended public schools. Fisk graduated from Harvard Law School in 1894. He soon returned to San Francisco to work in the law firm of former Assembly Speaker Morris M. Estee.[3]

In 1900, Fisk was elected to the State Assembly and served as Chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee in 1901. Since the legislature was part-time, Fisk also ran for District Attorney in San Francisco but narrowly lost. In 1903 he was elected as Speaker of the Assembly.

Soon thereafter, Fisk was appointed as Postmaster of San Francisco. It was in this position he suffered his first public controversy. In the wake of the 1906 earthquake, Fisk had allowed mail to be sent without postage, which was technically illegal, and was estimated to cost the federal government $60,000. Fisk said he "forwarded hundreds of thousands of letters without postage throughout the United States. These letters were written on old cuffs, pieces of cardboard, anything. They went into the mail bags and I was liable to criminal prosecution...Thousands were homeless, without food and without means of communicating with relatives. I established kitchens in the basement of the post office and fed hundreds of starving people."[4] Five years later, an act of Congress exonerated Fisk. When Democrats gained the White House in 1912, President Wilson asked for Fisk's resignation as Postmaster.

In 1913, Fisk began managing the finances of Anita Baldwin McClaugry, heiress to the fortunes of famous California businessman and racetrack industry pioneer Lucky Baldwin.[4]

In 1928, Fisk was appointed as United States Commissioner for Northern California. It was in this capacity that Fisk was sued by the federal government for $25,000 for his mishandling of alien property cases. Unable to adequately fund his legal defense, Fisk embezzled bail bond money in his custody to fight the government charges against him. Although he won the original lawsuit, it was discovered he misappropriated the bail bond funds and therefore was charged for embezzlement. At age 65, Fisk pleaded guilty to charges of mishandling the bail bond money in his custody. As a result, he served two years in federal prison at Carson City, Nevada. He was released on parole in 1935 at age 67. Said Fisk, "A reputation for honesty and integrity was destroyed and life as I knew it ended."[4]

In the end, Fisk was bitter that none of his friends and old political allies intervened to help his original case. He died in Los Angeles at age 70 on February 25, 1938, at the home of his daughter, Mrs. Hugh W. Mason.

Sources[edit]

  • San Francisco Chronicle, February 26, 1938.
  • Government of the State of California 1903, Fred Coleman, Sacramento: 1903.
  • California Blue Book, 1903, Office of State Printing: Sacramento.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Note: Fisk's year of birth is unclear. His obituary lists 1867 as his birth year; his biography in the Fred Coleman book lists it as 1868.
  2. ^ Fisk obituary, San Francisco Chronicle, February 26, 1938. See also, The Government of the State of California 1903, Fred Coleman, Sacramento: 1903.
  3. ^ Government of the State of California 1903, Fred Coleman, Sacramento: 1903.
  4. ^ a b c San Francisco Chronicle, February 26, 1938.
Preceded by
Cornelius W. Pendleton
Speaker of the California State Assembly
January 1903 – March 1903
Succeeded by
Frank C. Prescott