William Fife Knowland (June 26, 1908 – February 23, 1974) was a U.S. politician and newpaperman. He served as the United States Senate Majority Leader and later as the editor and publisher of the Oakland Tribune.
Knowland was born in Alameda, California when his father, Joseph Russell Knowland, was serving his third term as a United States Congressman.
Knowland made speeches for U.S. President Warren G. Harding at the age of 12, married at 19, became a California Assemblyman at 25, entered the United States Senate at 37, and became a grandfather at 41.
He graduated from the University of California, Berkeley in 1929, and served in a number of roles in the California Republican Party. He was also influential on the national scene, serving as the chairman of the executive committee of the Republican National Committee from 1940 to 1942.
When World War II broke out, he enlisted in the U.S. Army. He began as a Private, but had risen to the rank of Major by 1945. He was serving as part of the occupation forces in Germany, when Hiram Johnson, the U.S. Senator from California died. Earl Warren, the Governor of California at the time, appointed Knowland to replace him. Knowland's wife tried to telephone him with the news, but she couldn't get past the military censors, who said it was not essential government business. Knowland always said he learned of his new job from an article in Stars and Stripes.
He assumed office on August 26, 1945, and was re-elected in 1946 and 1952. He served as the Senate Majority Leader from 1953 to 1955, and then as the Senate Minority Leader from 1955 to 1958.
He floated a candidacy for President in 1956 but withdrew when President Dwight D. Eisenhower decided to run for re-election.
Knowland had a long-running battle with Richard Nixon for influence in Republican Party affairs in California. He was known as the Senator from Formosa for his strong support for Nationalists over the Communists in China.
He declined to run for re-election in the Senate in 1958. Instead, he ran for Governor of California. He won the Republican nomination after a brutal campaign but was upset in the general election by Attorney General Pat Brown, effectively ending Knowland's political career.
He became president and editor of the Oakland Tribune in 1964, after the death of his father. He took an interest in local affairs with this job. In 1974, he offered a $100,000 reward for the conviction of those responsible for the murder of Marcus A. Foster. The Symbionese Liberation Army claimed responsibility.
He died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, an apparent suicide, at his summer home near Guerneville, California.
He was married to Helen Davis Herrick in 1925, whom he had met in the sixth grade. They divorced in 1972. He was briefly married to Ann Dixon that year, but divorced her soon after.
- Gayle B. Montgomery and James W. Johnson (1998). One Step from the White House: The Rise and Fall of Senator William F. Knowland. Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 0520211944. Online at UC Press (http://ark.cdlib.org/ark:/13030/ft4k4005jq/).