William Kettner

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William Kettner
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 11th district
In office
March 4, 1913 – March 3, 1921
Preceded by District created
Succeeded by Phil Swing
Personal details
Born (1864-11-20)November 20, 1864
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Died November 11, 1930(1930-11-11) (aged 65)
San Diego, California
Political party Democratic

William "Bill" Kettner (November 20, 1864 – November 11, 1930) was a former US Democratic politician from San Diego, California. He served four terms in Congress from 1913 through 1921 and is credited with bringing many U.S. Navy facilities to San Diego.


Kettner was born in 1864 in Ann Arbor, Michigan to John F. and Frederika Kettner. His parents moved to St. Paul, Minnesota in 1873. His father died when he was 13, so he had to leave school to work, first as a bell boy, then he drove a dray horse. He came to San Diego when he was 21, in the middle of an economic boom in the late 1880s, and worked various odd jobs around the state.

In 1893 he married Ida B. Griffs in Visalia, California and went into the real estate and insurance business there. The couple divorced in 1904.

Kettner married Marion Morgan in 1905, and they lived in Visalia until moving to San Diego in 1907. William Kettner set up an insurance business, and later became involved with real estate and banking. He was a member of the San Diego Chamber of Commerce, and served as its Director.

Kettner was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1912. Because of his popularity with the Chamber of Commerce, he was supported by Republicans, including the conservative San Diego Union, and Democrats. Republicans used the slogan "Why not Kettner?"

During his four terms in Congress, 1913–1921, he spent much effort bringing Naval bases to San Diego. His first accomplishment, achieved even before he was sworn in as a member of Congress, was a federal appropriation to dredge San Diego Bay to allow large ships to enter.

Kettner won friends easily with his warm personality and addressed colleagues as "brother", earning him the nickname of "Brother Bill" in San Diego and Washington. He courted many congressmen and officials, and became friends with Franklin D. Roosevelt, then Assistant Secretary of the Navy. Roosevelt visited San Diego during the 1915 Panama-California Exposition and came away impressed with the area. He helped Kettner's efforts to establish bases in San Diego as assistant Naval secretary and later as President.

By the time Kettner retired from Congress in 1921, he had secured many Naval bases, including Camp Kearny on the site which is now Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, the Broadway Naval Supply Depot, the 32nd Street Naval Station, San Diego Naval Hospital, Naval Training Center San Diego, and Naval Air Station North Island. The military later became for a time the largest employer in San Diego County. Kettner was nicknamed the "Million Dollar Congressman" for his ability to gain Naval bases in San Diego. He stepped down as congressman due to poor health and a financial downturn with his insurance business.

Kettner died in San Diego in 1930 and is buried at Greenwood Memorial Park, beside his mother, who died in 1912. In 1914 the fireboat Bill Kettner, in use until 1961, was named in his honor. In 1930, San Diego's Arctic Street was renamed Kettner Boulevard to honor him.


I firmly believe that most people have a longing to do something for their fellowman, in order that it may be said when they have passed on that their lives have not been spent in vain.

— William Kettner, Why it was Done, p. 183


United States House of Representatives
New district Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 11th congressional district

Succeeded by
Phil Swing