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Guide to the Willis H. Warner Papers, 1884-1964 (bulk ca. 1920-1963)
MS-R002  
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Collection Details
 
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Biography
  • Chronology
  • Collection Scope and Content Summary

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Willis H. Warner papers,
    Date (inclusive): 1884-1964
    Date (bulk): (bulk ca. 1920-1963)
    Collection number: MS-R002
    Creator: Warner, Willis H. (Willis Huxley), 1889-1963
    Extent: 57 linear feet (60 boxes and 8 oversize folders)
    Repository: University of California, Irvine. Library. Special Collections and Archives.
    Irvine, California 92623-9557
    Abstract: This collection documents the activities of Willis H. Warner, who was a member of the Orange County Board of Supervisors for 24 years, including the activities of the Board of Supervisors and numerous Orange County governmental units from the 1930s through the 1960s. The collection also contains personal materials, including the records of Warner's business, the Warner Hardware Store (Huntington Beach, California), and materials documenting his prolific career in the public sector working for the Westminster Drainage District, the Beach Protective Association of Huntington Beach, and other Orange County public institutions and political organizations. The bulk of the materials in this collection document a wide-range of political, economic, and social issues affecting Orange County, reflected in the activities of the various County agencies and departments. These documents were maintained by Warner in an expansive topical file. Some of the significant topics represented in these files are airport development; environmental issues such as air and water pollution, beach erosion, and shoreline development (including reports by consulting engineer R.L. Patterson); civil defense; county finances; employment; fire programs; land use and planning; freeway and highway development; county buildings; correctional facilities; parks and recreation; oil drilling; public health and hospitals, particularly the Orange County General Hospital; publicity and tourism; schools and school districts; and welfare and public works programs. The largest group of these files document the activities of the Flood Control, Sanitation, and Water Districts, which were of great interest to Warner.
    Language: English.

    Administrative Information

    Access

    Collection is open for research.

    Publication Rights

    Property rights reside with the University of California. Literary rights are retained by the creators of the records and their heirs. For permissions to reproduce or to publish, please contact the Head of Special Collections and University Archives.

    Preferred Citation

    Willis H. Warner Papers. MS-R02. Special Collections and Archives, The UC Irvine Libraries, Irvine, California. Date accessed.
    For the benefit of current and future researchers, please cite any additional information about sources consulted in this collection, including permanent URLs, item or folder descriptions, and box/folder locations.

    Acquisition Information

    Gift of Willis C. Warner and Alice C. Warner, 1964.

    Processing History

    Preliminary folder lists were compiled by Special Collections and Archives Staff, 1991. Preliminary processing and guide prepared by Scott K. Winterstein, 2000-2001. Processing completed by David Eng, Jennifer Kwan, William Landis, and Adrian Turner, 2002. Guide completed by Adrian Turner, 2002.

    Biography

    Willis H. Warner was a prominent Orange County government official who served on the Orange County Board of Supervisors from 1939 to 1963 and was its chairman for almost 15 years. He is known for his extensive work on flood control and sanitation issues.
    Warner was born in Illinois in 1889. His father, Charles W. Warner, was a Burlington Railroad ticket agent and telegraph operator, and later worked as a carpenter and became a judge for the city of Huntington Beach. The family moved to Southern California when Willis was five years old and he attended elementary school at Garden Grove, Newhope, and Bolsa. In 1905 his father built the two-story house at 403 Tenth Street in which Willis would live for the rest of his life. He was in the first graduating class of Huntington Beach High School, where he later served as chairman of the school's board of trustees. He attended the University of Southern California to study municipal sanitation and produced a thesis on a sewer system and treatment plant for Huntington Beach. He received a degree in civil engineering from USC in 1911 and married Ethel M. Crane the same year. The Warners owned a variety of mineral and oil drilling rights, and properties throughout Southern California. They had two children, Willis C. Warner and Alice C. Warner.
    Warner worked as a lumber yard manager for the San Pedro Lumber Company, and in 1925 purchased his hardware store, the Warner Hardware Store, which he operated in Huntington Beach until 1953. He was also extremely active in a number of fraternal and community organizations, and served as director of the California Gun Club.
    In the public sector, Warner was active throughout his life in local government, non-governmental organizations, and local schools. He served for many years beginning in 1915 as secretary of the Westminster Drainage District, a public corporation contracted to build drainage ditches at a time when Orange County was particularly susceptible to flooding during rainy seasons. He also served as the first chairman of the newly formed Orange County Water District in 1933, was elected to the Huntington Beach City Council in 1934, and was elected mayor in 1936.
    In 1938 was elected Supervisor of Orange County District No. 2 after defeating John Mitchell of Garden Grove and two other candidates, and was sworn in on January 2 the following year. He served as Chairman of the Board of Supervisors for 17 years, from 1940 to 1947 and from 1949 to 1959. As Supervisor of District No. 2 he ran unopposed in every election from 1938 until 1958.
    During his career on the Board of Supervisors, the County's population grew from less than 130,000 to over 750,000, and County employees increased in number from 700 to 3,000. For a quarter of a century Warner was intimately involved in all of the problems faced by the expanding County, including zoning, subdivisions, building permits, road and highway construction, airport expansion, and many others. He specialized in water-related issues such as flood control and sanitation, and assisted in the formation of a county-wide sanitation system in the late 1940s and early 1950s that could accommodate the growth in Orange County population. Among the rare controversies of his career, Warner and the Board of Supervisors waged a political battle in the late 1950s with County Counsel Joel Ogle over tidelands drilling rights. Ogle was tried for corruption and acquitted, after which he accused Warner of collusion with oil companies.
    He was a member of the State Supervisors Association and served in various additional offices during this time, including Chairman and Director of the Orange County Water District, and Director and Chairman of the Shoreline Planning Association.
    Warner was widely known as "Mr. Orange County" and received the first-ever honor of "Man of the Year" from the Orange County Press Club in 1953. After suffering several years from coronary disease, he died on October 28 1963, only nine months after completing his final term in office on January 6.

    Chronology

    1889 Willis H. Warner born on January 18 in Millington, Illinois to Charles Wellington Warner and Jennie Marie Cooper.
    1894 Moves with family to Garden Grove.
    1896 Moves with family to Newhope, where they take up farming.
    1906 Moves with family to Huntington Beach.
    1906 Graduates from Los Bolsas Union High School (later renamed Huntington Beach Union High School), member of first graduating class.
    1911 Civil Engineering degree, University of Southern California.
    1911 Marries Ethel M. Crane, daughter of A.J. and Carrie Crane, in June.
    1912 Manager of the Westminster branch of the San Pedro Lumber Company.
    1915 Secretary, Westminster Drainage District.
    1925 Purchases Huntington Beach Hardware Store and establishes Warner Hardware Store.
    Ca. 1926 City Recorder, Huntington Beach.
    Ca. 1929-ca. 1930 Board of Directors, Home State Bank of Huntington Beach.
    Ca. 1929-ca. 1930 President, Eastside Improvement Company, Inc. of Huntington Beach.
    Ca. 1929-ca. 1930 Chairman, Huntington Beach Chamber of Commerce.
    1932-ca. 1933 Secretary and Treasurer, Beach Protective Association of Huntington Beach.
    1932-ca. 1933 Chairman, Huntington Beach Union High School.
    1933 Chairman of the Orange County Water District.
    1934 Elected to Huntington Beach City Council.
    1936 Mayor of Huntington Beach.
    1938 Elected Supervisor of Orange County District No. 2, sworn in January 2, 1939.
    1940 Chairman of the Board of Supervisors. Holds this position continuously until 1947.
    1945 Orange County forms a county-wide sanitation program in which Warner is highly active.
    1947 Willard Smith replaces Warner as Chairman of the Board of Supervisors.
    1948 Director of County Sanitation District No. 5.
    1949 Chairman of the Board of Supervisors. Holds this position continuously until 1959.
    1949 Eight-million dollar bond issue passed for county sanitation program, largely due to Warner's advocacy.
    1951 Warner serves as Director of Civil Defense for Orange County until 1960, earning a commendation from Governor Edmund G. Brown and the California Disaster Office.
    1953 Wife Ethel dies of acute pulmonary edema on February 12.
    1953 Sells Warner Hardware Store to Frank Hinshaw in June.
    Ca. 1954 Member of Garden Grove Chamber of Commerce.
    Ca. 1954 Member of Los Alamitos Chamber of Commerce.
    1959 Warner named "Man of the Year" by Orange County Press Club in February.
    1960 Suffers slight heart attack in April.
    1960 Retires as Chairman of the Board of Supervisors.
    1963 President Emeritus, Orange County Water District Board of Directors.
    1963 Retires from the Board of Supervisors on January 6.
    1963 Dies on October 28.

    Collection Scope and Content Summary

    This collection documents the activities of Willis H. Warner, who was a member of the Orange County Board of Supervisors for 24 years, including the activities of the Board of Supervisors and numerous Orange County governmental units from the 1930s through the 1960s. The collection also contains personal materials, including the records of Warner's business, the Warner Hardware Store (Huntington Beach, California), and materials documenting his prolific career in the public sector working for the Westminster Drainage District, the Beach Protective Association of Huntington Beach, and other Orange County public institutions and political organizations. The bulk of the materials in this collection document a wide-range of political, economic, and social issues affecting Orange County, reflected in the activities of the various County agencies and departments. These documents were maintained by Warner in an expansive topical file. Some of the significant topics represented in these files are airport development; environmental issues such as air and water pollution, beach erosion, and shoreline development (including reports by consulting engineer R.L. Patterson); civil defense; county finances; employment; fire programs; land use and planning; freeway and highway development; county buildings; correctional facilities; parks and recreation; oil drilling; public health and hospitals, particularly the Orange County General Hospital; publicity and tourism; schools and school districts; and welfare and public works programs. The largest group of these files document the activities of the Flood Control, Sanitation, and Water Districts, which were of great interest to Warner.
    Early public service career files document his activities prior to joining the Board of Supervisors in 1938 in addition to his non-Board of Supervisors work in the public sector. In particular, files document the financial and legal activities of the Westminster Drainage District, accumulated while he was working as its secretary; his active participation in the commercial development of Huntington Beach and nearby communities; his work on the board of trustees for Huntington Beach Union High School; and his involvement with the Beach Protective Association of Huntington Beach, which sought to prevent oil drilling in the area. The collection also contains financial and legal records including the operational records of his business, the Warner Hardware Store, and various personal and family materials.
    Materials are largely textual, comprising correspondence, memoranda, minutes and agendas, financial and legal material, clippings, publications, blueprints, maps, and related printed matter. Among other formats scattered throughout the collection are photographs, a small number of negatives, artifacts such as plaques, ephemera, and campaign paraphernalia.

    Arrangement

    This collection is organized into 4 series:
    • Series 1. Personal files, 1884-1963. 7.6 linear ft.
    • Series 2. Hardware store records, 1925-1953. 5.4 linear ft.
    • Series 3. Public service career files, 1915-1963. 5.3 linear ft.
    • Series 4. Orange County Board of Supervisors, 1918-1964. 38.7 linear ft.
    Unless otherwise noted in the series and subseries descriptions, the arrangement scheme for the collection was imposed during processing in the absence of a usable original order.