William Kent (American politician)

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William Kent
William Kent congressman.jpeg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 1st district
In office
March 4, 1913 – March 3, 1917
Preceded byJohn E. Raker
Succeeded byClarence F. Lea
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 2nd district
In office
March 4, 1911 – March 3, 1913
Preceded byDuncan E. McKinlay
Succeeded byJohn E. Raker
Personal details
William Kent

(1868-04-29)29 April 1868
Died13 April 1928(1928-04-13) (aged 59)
Kentfield, California, U.S.
Political partyProgressive Republican; Independent
Spouse(s)Elizabeth Thacher Kent
Alma materYale University
Elizabeth Thacher Kent (1868–1952) in 1916

William Kent (March 29, 1864 – March 13, 1928) was an American who served as a United States Congressman representing the State of California. He spearheaded the movement to create the Muir Woods National Monument by donating land to the Federal Government for the Monument.

Early life[edit]

He was born in Chicago, Illinois on March 29, 1864.[1] His parents, Adaline Elizabeth Dutton and Albert Emmett Kent (A.E. Kent)[1] moved the family to Marin County in California in 1871. His father, Albert Emmett Kent, had bought 800 acres of valley land that would later become the town Kentfield, California.[2]

He graduated from Yale University in 1887, where he was a member of Skull and Bones.[3]


Upon graduation, Kent returned to Chicago and entered the real estate and livestock businesses. He also became involved in politics, becoming a member of the city council and president of the Municipal Voter's League of Chicago.[4]

In 1907, Kent returned to California and entered federal politics by earning election as a progressive Republican to the 62nd United States Congress. For the 63rd and 64th Congressespecially, he was re-elected as an Independent. In total, he served in Congress from March 4, 1911 to March 4, 1917.

In 1916, Kent was the lead sponsor of the legislation in the House of Representatives to create the National Park Service. The similar Senate bill was sponsored by Reed Smoot. The legislation passed the House of Representatives on July 1, 1916, passed the Senate on August 5, and was signed by President Woodrow Wilson on August 25, 1916.[5]

Kent was also heavily involved in local politics; he was one of the major supporters of the creation of the Marin Municipal Water District in 1911, and he also backed early efforts for a Golden Gate Bridge. While Kent supported conservation, he also actively worked to promote growth and development in Marin during his independent turn to pragmatic Liberal Progressivism, such as his support for the Mt. Tamalpais & Muir Woods Railway, a renowned Marin County attraction that was partially funded by his father, Albert Emmett Kent. His wealth as one of the major landowners in the county increased greatly as property values rose.

After his time in Congress, Kent was appointed to the United States Tariff Commission, now the United States International Trade Commission) and served from March 21, 1917 to March 31, 1920.


Kent died on March 13, 1928 in Kentfield, California from pneumonia.[4] His remains were cremated in Oakland, California. He was survived by wife, five sons, two daughters, and ten grandchildren.[4]

Personal life[edit]

He was married to Elizabeth Sherman Thacher on February 26, 1890.[1] His wife, Elizabeth Thacher Kent, was the daughter of Yale professor and administrator Thomas Anthony Thacher. Together they had seven children including sons Sherman Kent (Yale professor and alumni of the US Central Intelligence Agency) and Roger Kent (US politician). His daughter was prominent artist, Adaline Kent.[1] Sherman Day Thacher was his brother-in-law.


He graduated from Yale University in 1887, where he was a member of Skull and Bones.[3]


Kent was also a philanthropist and budding Liberal Progressive. Together with his wife, Elizabeth Thacher Kent, he purchased 611 acres (2500 ha) of one of the last remaining stands of coast redwoods along Redwood Creek north of San Francisco Bay. To protect the redwood grove from development, he donated 295 acres (119 ha) to the federal government. President Theodore Roosevelt declared the area a national monument in 1908. He suggested naming the monument after Kent, who demurred and suggested the name Muir Woods National Monument, after naturalist John Muir.


  1. ^ a b c d Sherman, Thomas Townsend (1920). Sherman Genealogy Including Families of Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk, England: Some Descendants of the Immigrants, Captain John Sherman, Reverend John Sherman, Edmund Sherman and Samuel Sherman, and the Descendents of Honorable Roger Sherman and Honorable Charles R. Sherman. New York, NY: T. A. Wright. p. 365.
  2. ^ "Greenbrae and Kentfield - Overview". Realty Of Marin. Retrieved November 6, 2014.
  3. ^ a b "Obituary Record of Yale Graduates 1927-1928" (PDF). Yale University. 15 September 1928. p. 103. Retrieved March 26, 2011.
  4. ^ a b c "Guide to the William Kent Family Papers". Yale University Library. Manuscripts and Archives, Yale University Library. 1961. Retrieved November 6, 2014.
  5. ^ Swain, Donald C. (September 1969). "The Founding of the National Park Service". The American West. Palo Alto, CA: American West Publishing Company. VI (5): 6–9.

External links[edit]

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Duncan E. McKinlay
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 2nd congressional district

Succeeded by
John E. Raker
Preceded by
John Raker
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 1st congressional district

Succeeded by
Clarence F. Lea