Pioneer of the west and dean of provincial newspaper editors in California for more than 40 years, William Semple Green shaped the Colusa Sun as the voice of Colusa County.
Born Dec. 26, 1832, in Kentucky, Green received no formal education beyond the old backwoods field school.
In 1849, during the gold rush, Green journeyed to California. He arrived in San Francisco on Oct. 10, 1849, at the age of 17.
For nearly two years Green settled in Benicia, taking whatever kind of work came his way. In July 1851, as one of a trio of pioneers, he piloted the steamer Colusa upriver to found the town of Colusa, where he settled until his death 55 years later.
During the period between 1851 to 1863, Green tried his hand at several occupations such as hotel keeper, joint founder of a bakery, selling fresh vegetables and trying his hand at magazine articles.
On Sept. 26, 1863, with J.C. Addington as his partner, Green purchased the Colusa Sun, which had been founded as a weekly on Jan. 1, 1862.
Under Green's direction, according to historians, the paper soon stepped into "the front rank of journalism, as an able advocate of locality, conscientious in its intercourse with the public, and whose editor attracted attention of the press of the State for his originality of thought and method of expressing it."
Green's editorial experience began during the Civil War, when the Colusa Sun came into prominence for its reflection of Green's ultra States Rights views. In an editorial for June 1, 1865, on "States Rights and Slavery," Green commented: "Some persons have supposed that, like Siamese twins, these two questions were vitally connected. They are not. Slavery is dead. The doctrine of States Rights yet lives. There could be such a thing as a Republic in this country without slavery, but there can never be such a thing as a Republic in America without the acknowledgement of States Rights."
Throughout 1865 each issue of The Sun carried the National Democratic platform, full versions of the Virginia Resolutions of 1798 and the Kentucky Resolutions of 1798-99 on States Rights.
Though an ardent Democrat, Green was never a narrow partisan. "I tried all the time to treat the opinions of others with that degree of candor and consideration which I demanded for my own," Green said.
Few men had done more for the localities they represent than Will Green.
The dry seasons that blighted the region in the early 1850s led Green to advocate irrigation, and in 1864 he was appointed county surveyor for Colusa. The irrigation campaign that Green promoted dominated The Sun columns throughout his editorship.
It is not surprising, therefore, that Green has gone down in the annals of history as the "father of irrigation" in California.
Green's kinship with the land dominated his writing. His style has been described as "a sort of homey, fence rail, plow-beam philosophy, coupled with a sincere zeal for the county's advancement."
Largely self-taught, Green was interested in education for others as long as it was of a practical nature. His view of editorship was that a newspaperman should teach his community social responsibilities and educate men to live happily together.
In 1899, Green took the lead in urging the formation of a press association for the newspapers of upper and central California and was elected first president of The Central and Northern California Press Association. For him, a press association provided a means of bringing editors together to discuss their problems and to broaden their knowledge so that the views they expressed might be less prejudiced by ignorance.
He also saw in the association a means of organizing editors to fight advertising interests who sought free ad puffs in return for vague promises of future business, and against local bodies that demanded free newspaper space for material they were required to publish by law.
Green played an important part in the public affairs of the state. He was a state library trustee from 1890-1898, surveyor-general of California from 1894-1897 and state treasurer from 1898-1899.
Green was 73 and still zealous in his pursuits when he died in July 1905. On July 3, The Oakland Tribune printed these words of praise: "He lifted rural journalism to a high place and invested it with a dignity seldom attained. He was read with respect, because he wrote from conviction and knowledge and from a wholesome sense of public spirit."