William M. Roth

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William Roth
2nd United States Trade Representative
In office
March 24, 1967 – January 20, 1969
PresidentLyndon B. Johnson
Preceded byChristian Herter
Succeeded byCarl J. Gilbert
Personal details
William Matson Roth

(1916-09-03)September 3, 1916
San Francisco, California, U.S.
DiedMay 29, 2014(2014-05-29) (aged 97)
Petaluma, California, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Joan Osborn

William Matson Roth (September 3, 1916 – May 29, 2014) was a shipping executive, special ambassador for trade, member of the ACLU executive committee, and Regent for the University of California.[1] He is credited with the preservation of Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco.

Life and career[edit]

He was born in San Francisco, California, the son of Lurline Matson Roth and William Philip Roth.[2] His maternal grandfather was William Matson, the founder of the Matson Navigation Company.

In 1962, Roth and his mother purchased Ghirardelli Square in fear that it would be torn down and replaced with condominiums.[3] They hired a landscape architectural firm to convert the factory with its historic brick structure into a retail complex. It was considered to be the first major adaptive re-use project in the United States. Ghirardelli Square was later listed on the National Register of Historical Places to preserve for future generations.[4]

In 1966, he was targeted along with Clark Kerr and Elinor Raas Heller by a fellow Regent, Edwin Pauley, for his alleged "ultra-liberal" views.[5] Ronald Reagan made the Free Speech Movement and Opposition to the Vietnam War on the Berkeley campus one of his major campaign issues.

At the first Regents' meeting after Reagan's election, Kerr was fired, with all the governor's new appointees voting for termination.[6] Roth remained a member of the Regents' Board for many years, and was deliberately late for Reagan's last meeting in 1974, to avoid voting on a resolution of approval for the outgoing governor.[7]

President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed him to be the Trade Representative, following the death of Christian A. Herter the previous year.[8]

Among other activities, Roth worked as special representative for trade on US-European trade talks (named the Kennedy Round negotiations). See photo of Roth at a 1967, U.S. Chamber of Commerce conference alongside US Secretary of Commerce Alexander B. Trowbridge; Secretary of Agriculture Orville Freeman, and Under Secretary of Labor James J. Reynolds.

In 1974, Roth, a long-time contributor to the Democratic Party, ran for Governor of California in the Democratic Primary election. He placed fourth (receiving 10% of the vote) in a crowded field of candidates that included San Francisco Mayor Joseph Alioto, Speaker of the Assembly Bob Moretti, Congressman Jerome Waldie, and the winner, Secretary of State Jerry Brown, who had the advantage of name recognition, his father Pat Brown having been Governor eight years before.

Roth had a summer home on Sonoma Mountain with substantial area, having purchased the holding around 1950; the Roth family gave this property to the Nature Conservancy, who transformed it into a nature preserve, presently known as the Fairfield Osborn Preserve. Now his daughter Maggie Roth, wife of artist David Best, (David has two children from a previous marriage) lives on the property. They have three children together. He lived with his wife Joan Osborn and had three children with her. Roth died on May 29, 2014 in Petaluma, California.[7]


  1. ^ "University of California History Digital Archives". Sunsite.berkeley.edu. Archived from the original on 2013-10-02. Retrieved 2013-09-28.
  2. ^ CQ Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report - Google Books. Books.google.ca. 2007-03-31. Retrieved 2014-06-05.
  3. ^ Burt A. Folkart, Matson Line Heiress Roth Dies After 95th Birthday : Philanthropist Lurline Roth Dies at Age 95, The Los Angeles Times, September 06, 1985
  4. ^ "San Mateo County History Museum, The Roth Family". Historysmc.org. Retrieved 2013-09-28.
  5. ^ [1] Archived May 14, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ Seth Rosenfeld (2002-06-09). "The governor's race". SFGate. Retrieved 2013-09-28.
  7. ^ a b John King (2014-05-30). "William Matson Roth, prominent Bay Area businessman, dies". SFGate. Retrieved 2014-06-05.
  8. ^ "Office of the United States Trade Representative - List of Past USTRS". Ustr.gov. Retrieved 2013-09-28.
Political offices
Preceded by
Christian Herter
United States Trade Representative
Succeeded by
Carl Gilbert