William Marion Ramsey

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William Marion Ramsey
William Marion Ramsey.jpg
43rd Associate Justice of the Oregon Supreme Court
In office
Appointed by Oswald West
Preceded by new position
Succeeded by Lawrence T. Harris
Personal details
Born December 25, 1846
Died September 15, 1937(1937-09-15) (aged 90)
Spouse(s) Mahala A. Harris
Julia A. Snyder

William Marion Ramsay (December 25, 1846 – September 15, 1937) was an American politician and judge in Oregon. He was the 43rd Associate Justice on the Oregon Supreme Court serving from 1913 to 1915. He was also the first dean of Willamette University College of Law and a mayor of Salem, Oregon, and McMinnville, Oregon.

Early life[edit]

William Ramsay was born on Christmas Day 1846 in Monroe County, Iowa.[1] The next year the family traveled the Oregon Trail and settled near the town of Newberg in Oregon Country.[1] Arriving in the fall of 1847, William’s parents Susan Shuck (d. 1898) and David Ramsey (d. 1891) homesteaded on the same site as Ewing Young’s former mill.[2] William was the youngest of five children in the family when they moved to Oregon, though his parents would have nine more children.[2] He was schooled in the local public schools before attending and graduating from McMinnville College.[2] William read law in Yamhill County and passed the bar, becoming a lawyer in 1868.[1] Two years later he married Mahala A. Harris with whom he would father four children.[1]

Legal career[edit]

In 1870, William was elected as the county judge for Yamhill County.[1] He then practiced law in Lafayette, Oregon for ten years including for a time as a law partner with Benjamin F. Bonham, the two were partners from 1876 until 1885.[2] From 1883 to 1888 Ramsey served as the first dean for Willamette University College of Law in Salem, Oregon, where he was in charge of a staff of three professors.[3] While in Salem he also served as mayor before moving to east to Pendleton, Oregon, and La Grande, Oregon, (1902–1911) and then settling again in McMinnville, Oregon, where he served two terms as mayor.[1][2]

On June 3, 1913, Oregon Governor Oswald West appointed Ramsey and fellow former Willamette Law dean Charles L. McNary to the state supreme court bench when the court expanded from five to seven justices.[4][5] Ramsey, a Democrat, ran for re-election in 1914, but lost to Lawrence T. Harris.[5][6] Both McNary and Ramsey left the court at the end of the term on January 4, 1915.[5]


William’s son Frederick served as a captain in the United States Navy aboard the Battleship Oregon.[2] After his first wife died William married Julia A. Snyder in 1896, and they would have one daughter.[1][2] William Marion Ramsey died on September 15, 1937, at the age of 79 and was buried in McMinnville at a funeral attended by several Oregon Supreme Court justices including Henry J. Bean, John O. Bailey, John L. Rand, and Percy R. Kelly.[2]

Willamette University’s law school holds an annual lecture in his honor.[2]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Corning, Howard M. Dictionary of Oregon History. Binfords & Mort Publishing, 1956.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Yamhill County Circuit Court History. Oregon Judicial Department. Retrieved on February 2, 2008.
  3. ^ 1840-1990 Keepsake Edition: Willamette University. Statesman Journal, October 26, 1990.
  4. ^ Oregon Blue Book: Governors of Oregon. Oregon Secretary of State. Retrieved on February 2, 2008.
  5. ^ a b c Oregon Blue Book: Supreme Court Justices of Oregon. Oregon Secretary of State. Retrieved on February 2, 2008.
  6. ^ "More Enter Race for Nominations". The Oregonian. March 8, 1914. p. 6. 
Academic offices
Preceded by
position created
Dean of Willamette University College of Law
Succeeded by
George G. Bingham