Biography of Tirey Lafayette Ford of San Francisco

Tirey L. Ford
Tirey L. Ford

Tirey Lafayette Ford is general counsel for the United Railroads of San Francisco and stands today as one of the distinguished representatives of the bar of California. In the “learned” professions, advancement is proverbially slow and comes only in recognition of inherent talent, acquired ability, and unfaltering devotion to the interests of litigation entrusted to the care of the individual. Patiently persevering, possessed of an analytical mind and one that is readily receptive and retentive of the fundamental principles and intricacies of the law, gifted with a spirit of devotion to wearisome details, quick to comprehend the most subtle problems and logical in his conclusions, Mr. Ford is rarely gifted for the achievement of success in the arduous and difficult profession of the law.

A native of Missouri, his birth occurred in Monroe County on the 29th of December, 1857. The family was established in America about 1650 by French Huguenots, who, crossing the Atlantic, located in Virginia. The great-grandfather of Mr. Ford was with General George Washington at Yorktown when the surrender of Lord Cornwallis occurred. His grandfather, Jacob Ford, was with General William Henry Harrison in the Indian campaigns which made the hero of Tippecanoe famous. Jacob Harrison Ford, the father of our subject, was born in Monroe County, Missouri, on the 21st of August, 1821, and has spent his entire life there. For many years he was actively identified with agricultural pursuits but is now living retired in his native county at the advanced age of eighty-two years. His wife, who bore the maiden name of Mary Wynn Abernathy, was a native of Boone County, Missouri, and was of English lineage. Her ancestors came to America during the seventeenth century and settled in Virginia, whence representatives of the name removed to Kentucky and subsequently the family was established in Missouri at an early period in the nineteenth century. To Jacob Harrison and Mary W. Ford were born four sons and five daughters.

Tirey Lafayette Ford is indebted to the district schools of his native county for the early educational privileges he enjoyed. He afterward attended the Paris high school in Monroe County, Missouri, pursuing his education in the winter months, while in the summer seasons he worked upon his father’s farm, assisting materially in the work and cultivation of the old home place. He put aside his textbooks altogether at the age of eighteen years and the following year came to California, arriving in February 1877. Locating first in Colusa County, he secured a position on a ranch, where he worked for three years. When determining to enter upon a professional career and deciding upon the practice of law, he made arrangements whereby he became a student in the law office of Col. Park Henshaw in Chico, Butte County, California. There, assiduously pursuing his studies, he mastered the principles of jurisprudence which enabled him to successfully pass an examination for admission to the bar in August 1882.

Mr. Ford entered upon his professional career in Oroville, Butte County, California, but after about three years removed to Downieville, the county seat of Sierra County, California, in January 1885. There he practiced law with good success, securing a clientage that connected him with much important litigation here in the courts of his district. In the year 1888, he was nominated and elected district attorney for Sierra County and discharged his duties so capably that he was re-elected in 1890. While residing there he was also chosen to represent his district in the state senate in 1892, and in 1895 was appointed attorney for the state board harbor commission. Still higher political honors awaited him, for in 1898 he was elected attorney general of California for a term of four years but resigned in 1902 in order to enter upon his present connection with the United Railroads of San Francisco as general counsel. His knowledge of railroad law, as of other departments of jurisprudence, is comprehensive and accurate, and he stands today as one of the foremost representatives of the legal interests of California. The United Railroads of San Francisco cover over two hundred and fifty miles of track and employ over three thousand men. It is one of the finest systems in the world, and Mr. Ford as general counsel has the legal responsibility of looking after millions of dollars of investment in this line.

In February 1888, Mr. Ford was united in marriage to Miss Emma Byington, a native of California, and a daughter of Hon. Lewis and Catherine (Freehill) Byington, the former a native of Connecticut, and the latter of Ireland. Her parents were both settlers of this state, arriving in California in the early ’50s. To the marriage of Mr. and Mrs. Ford have been born three children: Relda, who is now fifteen years of age and is attending high school in San Francisco; Lewis, who at the age of thirteen is a student in the grammar schools of this city; and Tirey L., a little lad of five summers.

Mr. Ford is well known in fraternal and social circles. He has attained high rank in Masonry, belonging to Golden Gate Commandery, K. T., and to the Mystic Shrine. He is a member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and the Ancient Order of United Workmen and is the president of the Missouri Society of California. He belongs to the Pacific Union Club, the San Francisco Club, the Union League Club, and the Press Club. He is a member of the California Miners’ Association, and to him was entrusted the work of looking after necessary legislation in Sacramento and in Washington, D. C. He is a man of distinct and forceful individuality, a broad mentality and mature judgment, and without invidious distinction he may well be termed one of the foremost citizens of San Francisco.

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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