Biography of Alfred Pressly Black

On the roll of capable attorneys at the San Francisco bar appears the name of Alfred Pressly Black, and the extent and importance of his clientage is an indication of the confidence reposed in his professional skills and ability. He was born in Butler county, Pennsylvania, November 26, 1856, and is a son of James Black, who was likewise a native of the keystone state, born in 1808. The family is of Scotch-Irish descent and was established in America about the middle of the eighteenth century, the grandfather having located in Pennsylvania in 1796. James Black was a farmer by occupation and also engaged in the undertaking business for many years. He married Miss Nancy A. Russell, a native of the north of Ireland, and in her girlhood days she was brought to the United States by her parents, the family home being established in Philadelphia about 1824. In the year 1874 James Black came with his family to California, settling in San Jose, where his remaining days were passed, his death occurring in 1901. To him and his wife were born ten sons and a daughter, of whom Alfred Pressly Black is the youngest.

In the common schools of Butler county, Pennsylvania, Mr. Black acquired his early education, which was supplemented by an academic course in Franklin, Venango county, Pennsylvania. His own literary education being completed at the age of eighteen years, he then engaged in teaching school for the following term in the Keystone state. In 1875 he came to California, joining his parents in San Jose. He afterward engaged in teaching school in Fresno, Santa Clara and Alameda counties for a period of seven years. In the fall of 1882 he came to San Francisco and entered the Hastings Law College, from which he was graduated on the completion of a three years’ course with the class of 1885, at which time the degree of Bachelor of Law was conferred upon him. Entering upon his professional career he has since remained in active practice. He was appointed by William S. Barnes in 1891 as assistant district attorney of San Francisco, and served under him for seven years, while in 1899 he was appointed by Judge D. J. Murphy as first assistant district attorney, filling that position until 1900, when the new charter of San Francisco went into effect, and he retired from the office as he had entered it, with the confidence and good will of all concerned. During his term of service, particularly during the six years which he spent in connection with Judge Wallace, the percentage of convictions was much larger than under any former administration. Among the notable cases which he tried and obtained conviction were those of Becker & Creegan, the Nevada bank forgers–a case of world-wide fame.

On the 25th of August, 1887, occurred the marriage of Mr. Black and Miss Fannie Jean Lyne, a native of San Francisco and a daughter of William and Catherine Lyne, who were early settlers of California. Her father was of English lineage and her mother of Scotch descent, having been born in Kinross, Scotland. They have three children who are yet living: Emma F., Alfred Harold and Marion Alice. Mr. Black belongs to the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and is a past grand of San Francisco Lodge No. 3. His political allegiance is given to the Republican party, but while he is deeply interested in the success of the party, believing that its principles contain the best elements of good government, he has never been an aspirant for offices outside of professional lines. His success in a professional way affords the best evidence of his capability. He is a strong advocate with the jury and concise in his appeals before the court. His appeals have been characterized by a terse and decisive logic and a lucid presentation rather than by flights of oratory, and his power is the greater before court or jury from the fact that it is recognized that his course is to secure justice and not to enshroud the case in a sentimental garb or elusions, which will thwart the principles of right and equity involved.

Source: Leigh H. Irvine; A History of the New California Its Resources and People, 2 Volumes; New York and Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1903.

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