A member of an old and prominent New England family, dating back to Colonial times, Mr. Harvey himself was born in Newport and has been a life-long resident of this city. There he has practiced for a quarter of a century his profession of law and today he ranks very high among Rhode Island lawyers. A man of great public spirit, he has given much time to civic affairs, having held at various times different important local offices, which he has invariably filled with much ability and with great devotion to the public welfare, thus rendering important services to civic progress. He is also a director of numerous important financial and other corporations, maintains membership in several legal, patriotic, civic and social organizations, rendered important services in a civil capacity during the World War and, indeed, in every respect, represents the highest type of useful, vigorous and public-spirited citizenship.
William R. Harvey was born in Newport, August 31, 1877, a son of the late Charles E. and Nettie P. (Tew) Harvey. His father, a native of South Kingstown, served as clerk of the Superior Court during 1889-1907, the year of his death. He was a veteran of the Civil War, during which he served in the United States Navy. After the war he became one of the most popular members of the Charles E. Lawton Post, Grand Army of the Republic, of which he served as quartermaster for many years. Mr. Harvey’s mother, now also deceased, was a native of Newport. Having received his early education in the public grammar and high schools of Newport, Mr. Harvey, after he had graduated from Rogers High School, matriculated at Brown University, from which he was graduated with the degree of Bachelor of Arts in 1901. He then took up the study of law at the Harvard Law School, graduating there with the degree of Bachelor of Laws in 1904. Admitted to the Rhode Island bar in the following year, 1905, he entered the office of the late William P. Sheffield, and in 1912, formed a partnership with Mr. Sheffield under the name of Sheffield and Harvey. In 1919, upon the death of the latter, Mr. Harvey formed a partnership with Mr. Sheffield’s son, William P. Sheffield, Jr., and John R. Haire, and the firm has continued under the same name. In 1910 Mr. Harvey was appointed by Governor Pothier as a member of the commission to redistrict the House of Representatives. Mr. Harvey is especially well known as a practitioner of corporation and probate law and in that branch of his profession ranks very high. A man of exceptional business and executive ability and of clear and keen judgment, he has been called upon to participate actively in the management of various leading financial and other corporations. He is a vice-president and director of the Aquidneck National Exchange Bank & Savings Company, as well as a director of the Newport Cooperative Association for Savings & Buildings, the Colonial Finance Corporation, the United Bond & Mortgage Company, of Rhode Island, the Aquidneck Realty Company, and the Newport Gas Light Company, of which latter he was a director for several years. In spite of the fact that naturally his large and important law practice has always required and received the major share of Mr. Harvey’s time and attention, he has also found it possible to take a very active part in public life. From 1906 to 1914 he served as a member of the Newport Representative Council, the last two years being chairman of this body; from 1910-19 he was a member of the Newport Board of Health; and since 1914 he has been a member of the Newport School Committee, and chairman since 1927. During the World War he served as a member of the Appellate Board for the First District of Rhode Island under the Selective Service Act and was also prominently and effectively active as a “four-minute” speaker. In many other ways, too, Mr. Harvey has continuously and consistently devoted himself to the furthering of civic progress. He is an active member of the Newport Chamber of Commerce, of which he served at one time as director; a member of the board of directors of the Newport Young Men’s Christian Association; a director of the Legal Aid Society; and the president and a trustee of the Newport Hospital. Ever since his college days he has maintained membership in Phi Delta Theta Fraternity and he is also a member of St. Paul’s Lodge, Free and Accepted Masons; Newport Chapter, Royal Arch Masons; De Blois Council, Royal and Select Masters; Washington Commandery, Knights Templar; Newport Lodge, No. 104, Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks; the Improved Order of Red Men; the Miontononi Club; the Wanumetonomy Club; the Ida Lewis Yacht Club; the Newport Rotary Club; Miskiania Camp; the American Bar Association; the Rhode Island State Bar Association; the Newport Bar Association; and the Newport Chapter, Sons of the American Revolution, of which he is a past president. In politics he is a supporter of the Republican party, while his religious affiliations are with the Unitarian Church.
Mr. Harvey married, in 1908, Ann Sarah Ward, a native of Middletown. Mr. and Mrs. Harvey are the parents of four children: Annette Ward, graduate of La Salle Seminary and now attending Pratt Institute of Brooklyn, New York, and Bernice Sherman, graduate of Wellesley College, 1930 (twins); William Ward, student of Dartmouth College; and Hope Harvey, now in high school.
Source: Carroll, Charles. Rhode Island: Three Centuries of Democracy, vol 3 of 4. New York: Lewis historical Pub. Co., 1932.