Editor. Gonzales was born on April 24, 1866, in Charleston, the son of Ambrosio José Gonzales and his wife, Harriet Rutledge Elliott. Best known as an editor of the State newspaper, Gonzales was the youngest of the three Gonzales brothers to run the publication.
The family frequently relocated during William’s childhood. By 1869 the Gonzales family had left for Cuba, where his father attempted a career in education. Although initially successful, he failed to retain steady employment. By the time William turned ten years old, his mother had died from yellow fever and his father had deposited his six children with members of his wife’s family in Colleton County, South Carolina. During this time, older brother Narciso G. Gonzales became a father figure to young William. Narciso sent William to King’s Mountain Military Academy in Yorkville and then to the Citadel in Charleston. Due to a speech impediment, William quit school in April 1884 with his brother’s blessing, and six months later joined Narciso at the News and Courier in Charleston. The following year, William began working for the Columbia bureau of the News and Courier and moved to the capital city.
While living in Columbia, William met Sara Shiver, the daughter of a wealthy local businessmen. On February 2, 1887, the couple married in a lavish ceremony at Columbia’s First Presbyterian Church. Shortly after the marriage, William lost his job with the News and Courier as a result of cost cutting by the newspaper. He briefly worked as the secretary to Governor John P. Richardson and participated in several real estate ventures.
By the summer of 1892 Gonzales had joined the staff at the State newspaper. He worked as a telegraph editor, proofreader, and headline writer and also wrote features covering topics ranging from criminal trials to travel. By the turn of the century, the State had become one of South Carolina’s most widely read papers, and William had become news editor. Working under his brother Narciso, William’s career in journalism began to take shape. Narciso had served as William’s greatest supporter and mentor, and his death at the hands of James Tillman in 1903 severely affected William.
The death of Narciso Gonzales thrust primary responsibility for the newspaper on William’s older brother, Ambrose. While his brother ran the paper, William’s career flourished. He campaigned enthusiastically for Woodrow Wilson as a Democratic presidential elector. In 1912 William became minister to Cuba, and by 1918 he was named ambassador to Peru. He returned to Columbia, however, following the death of Ambrose Gonzales in 1926. William served as editor, publisher, and president of The State Company, which his family had founded. William Gonzales worked much of his life to ensure the success of the State newspaper, striving to maintain its status as a “Columbia Institution.” He died in Columbia on October 20, 1937, and was buried in Elmwood Cemetery.
Jones, Lewis P. Stormy Petrel: N.G. Gonzales and His State. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1973.
Moore, John Hammond. Columbia and Richland County: A South Carolina Community, 1740–1990. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1993.