U'Ren, William Simon

U'Ren, William Simon

(1859–1949) lawyer, reformer; born in Lancaster, Wis. Raised in Wisconsin, Nebraska, and Colorado, he worked as a miner and blacksmith before reading law. He was admitted to the Colorado bar in 1881 but gave up his legal practice after a few years because of poor health. After several years of various jobs in different states and Hawaii, he settled in Oregon and opened a law office in Portland. As a leader of powerful citizen lobbies, he pressed successfully for such political reforms as initiative and referendum, direct primaries, and direct election of U.S. senators—innovations that soon spread to other states. His favorite innovation, however, the single tax advocated by Henry George, was never accepted, and after his failed 1914 run for governor of Oregon on this platform, he withdrew from active politics. He kept up a modest law practice until shortly before his death.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.