William A. Sutherland

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William Angus Sutherland (January 26, 1874–October 18, 1935) was a California politician, attorney, and banker. Sutherland was elected to the California State Assembly in 1910, and re-elected in 1912.

Early life[edit]

Born in Oakland, California, Sutherland spent his childhood in San Francisco and Oakland. He attended Stanford University, where he earned his law degree in 1898.


Admitted to the bar in 1898, Sutherland practiced law in San Francisco until 1901, when he moved to Fresno, California and formed a law practice with Frank H. Short.

In about 1899, Sutherland began his association with legal publisher Bancroft-Whitney Company of San Francisco. He worked first on Walter Maline Rose's 12-volume Notes on the United States Reports, or at least the supplements to this digest of U.S. Supreme Court decisions. He received sole credit for volume 13, the 263-page index published in 1900. He then in 1902 co-authored with James Henry Deering the California Digest of the California Supreme Court's cases found in volumes 126 to 136 of California Reports (1899–1902).

In 1903, Sutherland became a law partner with Joseph P. Bernhard, who had also worked on Rose's U.S. Notes in San Francisco. After he and Bernhard dissolved their partnership in 1904, Sutherland practiced solo until 1906 when he merged his law practice with that of the law practice of future United States Congressman Henry E. Barbour, who had also established his law office in 1903.

The Bancroft-Whitney Company of San Francisco published in 1910 Sutherland's widely used four-volume practice guide, A Treatise on Code Pleading and Practice. Designed for use by attorneys in California and other mostly-Western states that required code pleading. Bancroft-Whitney published Sutherland's supplement to the 1910 treatise in 1917.

Sutherland also authored a 973-page treatise, Notes on the Constitution of the United States, published by Bancroft-Whitney Company in 1904. This book was reprinted by Fred B. Rothman & Co. in 1991.

By 1912, Fresno's dominant industry, raisins, was in terrible shape. Prices were so low that they did not cover production costs. M. Theo Kearney's attempt to organize the raisin farmers had failed in 1904. After his death in 1906, several industry groups tried unsuccessfully between 1907 and 1912 to follow the Kearney model of a capitalized raisin cooperative. A group of prominent growers and Fresno businessmen, and Sutherland as their lawyer, formed the California Associated Raisin Company (later known as Sun-Maid). Similar to the Kearney model, the company had both grower members and nongrower investors. The trustees of a voting trust controlled all the shares and elected the seven directors. A novel feature devised by Sutherland and Fresno lawyers H.H. Welsh and M.K. Harris was the three-year grower contract, subject to a two-year renewal, binding the grower to deliver all of his crop for a guaranteed price. The vompany signed up 76% of the raisin acreage and raised $800,000 in capital, and began operations in April 1913.[1]

In about 1913, Sutherland left his partnership with Henry E. Barbour and again established a partnership with Fresno's preeminent attorney, Frank H. Short. Short became ill in 1917 and then spent considerable time in San Francisco receiving medical treatment and eventually died in June 1920.


A Republican, Sutherland was elected to the California State Assembly in 1910, and re-elected in 1912.[2]

Sutherland was the official proponent of Proposition 12, which created the California Railroad Commission (now known as the California Public Utilities Commission) in 1911.[2]

In 1913, Sutherland was the author of legislation that took an early step to California's community property law. Sutherland's law gave fathers and mothers joint custody of their minor children and joint right to any services and earnings from those children; prior to the passage of Sutherland's law, these rights were the sole domain of fathers.[3]

Sutherland was a delegate to the 1920 Republican National Convention in Chicago, which nominated Warren Harding for President and Calvin Coolidge for Vice President.


During World War I, the Bank of Italy (later known as Bank of America) entered the Fresno market by acquiring the Fresno National Bank and People's Savings Bank and control of the First National Bank of Fresno.[4] This competitive pressure forced innovation and aggressiveness on Fresno's locally owned banks, Farmers' National Bank and the Bank of Central California. The Spanish flu epidemic killed the head of the Farmers' National Bank on December 10, 1919, leaving a power vacuum at the bank.[5] The Bank of Central California took advantage of the opportunity to purchase the much larger Farmers' National Bank. However, the day before the bank merger was announced in January 1920, the head of the Bank of Central California himself died from the epidemic at age 38.[6]

The President of the Associated Raisin Company then became the President of the bank in March 1920, renaming it Fidelity Trust and Savings Bank, with Sutherland leaving his law firm to become the vice president and manager of Fidelity. After a year of serving as President of both companies, the Fidelity President decided to focus solely on Associated Raisin, and Sutherland was elected to fill the Fidelity vacancy. In July 1922, the Los Angeles Trust and Savings Bank bought Fidelity, and the Fidelity Trust and Savings Bank became its Fidelity Branch. With the acquisition, Sutherland's title became Vice President of the Los Angeles Trust and Savings Bank and Managing Director of the Fidelity Branch. Shortly thereafter, the Los Angeles bank changed its name to Pacific Southwest Trust and Savings Bank.[7]

Sutherland was instrumental in the planning and construction of the Pacific Southwest Building (later known as the Security Bank Building, then Fresno Pacific Towers, and finally by its address of 1060 Fulton Mall) at the southeast corner of Mariposa and Fulton in Fresno. Construction began in 1923 and the bank moved its offices there in 1925.[8] The building was the tallest building in California located between Los Angeles and San Francisco until 2005.[9]

Later career[edit]

Sutherland served as President of the Fresno County Chamber of Commerce in 1923 and 1924. He was a Director of the Sun Maid Hotel Corporation and was its president for one year.

In December 1926, Sutherland left Security First National Bank (though he remained its local counsel and the chairman of its local advisory board until his death) to establish the law firm of Sutherland & Dearing with Milton M. Dearing. In 1930, future federal appellate judge Gilbert H. Jertberg became their partner, and the law firm of Sutherland, Dearing & Jertberg was established in Suite 605 of the Pacific Southwest Building.[10]

Sutherland was a director of the California State Automobile Association (part of AAA) in the 1920s. He also was a master of the Las Palmas Masonic Lodge.


Sutherland died unexpectedly at age 61 of a heart attack while aboard the ocean liner SS California off the coast of Baja California. He had been returning to California from a European vacation via the Panama Canal. He was survived by his wife, Helen, and their adopted son, Keith D. Sutherland, who was a dentist in Fresno.[11]

After Sutherland's death in 1935, Jertberg's appointment as a federal judge in 1955, and Dearing's semiretirement in the 1960s, the law firm of Sutherland, Dearing & Jertberg dissolved. Kenneth Avery later joined Meux & Gallagher. In the 1970s, the firm became Baker, Manock & Jensen. Combining the time between Sutherland, Dearing & Jertberg; Jertberg & Avery; and Baker, Manock & Jensen, the firm occupied the same space on the sixth floor of the old Pacific Southwest Building for 56 consecutive years before moving to another location seven miles north and is now one of the largest law firms in Central California.[10]

Sutherland's former bank, Pacific Southwest Trust and Savings Bank later became the Security First National Bank.[12] Security First merged with Farmers and Merchants Bank of Los Angeles in 1956 to become Security National Bank, then acquired Pacific National Bank in 1967 to become Security Pacific National Bank, and was acquired by Bank of America in 1992.

After Helen M. Sutherland death in 1939, Security First National Bank and Sutherlands' son, Keith, litigated the validity of Helen Sutherland's wills. The bank sought to probate Helen Sutherland's 1935 will, which named the bank as executor and trustee of a trust established by the will that would pay the younger Sutherland $150 per month, equip his dental office, and distribute the balance to him at age 35 at the bank's discretion.[13] Keith contended the will was revoked by a later holographic will, of which he could produce only a portion, and that portion had been torn in half. Keith testified at the trial that the second will had been torn on the day he found it, after his mother had died. The jury found for Keith, that the holographic document revoked the 1935 will. However, the holographic document was not admitted to probate, and the judge ruled Mrs. Sutherland died intestate. As her sole heir, Keith inherited her entire $100,000 estate outright.[14]


  1. ^ Spence, W.Y., "The California Associated Raisin Co. – Organization of the Company," The Sun-Maid Herald, July 1918.
  2. ^ a b "W. A. Sutherland". JoinCalifornia Election Archive. 
  3. ^ Jarrod Harrison. "After Suffrage: The California Federation of Women's Clubs and the 1913 State Legislature". San Francisco State University. 
  4. ^ Walker, Ben, The Fresno County Blue Book, Arthur H. Cawston, Fresno, 1941, p. 174.
  5. ^ Streit, Edwin, Fresno's Pioneer Banks and Building and Loans, 1999, pp. 66-67.
  6. ^ Eaton, Edwin M., Vintage Fresno, The Huntington Press, Fresno, 1965, pp. 63-64.
  7. ^ Streit, Edwin, Fresno’s Pioneer Banks and Building and Loans, 1999, pp. 67-68.
  8. ^ "Fresno's Finest Skyscraper Is Now Complete," The Fresno Morning Republican, January 19, 1925.
  9. ^ "The History of 1060 Fulton". Fresno Pacific Towers. Retrieved March 2, 2011. 
  10. ^ a b Congressman George Radanovich (November 5, 2003). "Honoring Baker, Manock & Jensen for 100th Anniversary" (PDF). Congressional Record. p. E2232. 
  11. ^ "Heart Attack at Sea Is Fatal to W.A. Sutherland," The Fresno Bee, October 18, 1935, p. 1.
  12. ^ Streit, Edwin, Fresno's Pioneer Banks and Building and Loans, 1999, pp. 67-68.
  13. ^ "Sutherland Will Fight Opens Before Jury," The Fresno Bee, January 29, 1940.
  14. ^ "Sutherland Wins Right to Handle Mother's Estate," The Fresno Bee, March 22, 1940.

Further reading[edit]

  • Baker, Manock & Jensen Attorneys at Law: The First 100 Years 1903-2003.
  • Pacific-Southwest Bank Building Section, The Fresno Bee, January 19, 1925.

External links[edit]