Descended from a long line of patriotic and professional men who served well their respective generations, William Bates Greenough, distinguished member of the Rhode Island bar, has filled, among other offices of a public character, that of Attorney-General of the State. He has also discharged several important commissions. His rise in the legal profession has been steady and sustained in the nearly two-score years of his practice; and he is a former vice-president of the American Bar Association and is at present a member of the Executive Committee. Providence recognizes him as one of the foremost of her citizens, one who has the material, moral and civic welfare of the municipality at heart.
The family of Greenough is of English derivation and has been seated in America for approximately three centuries. Mr. Greenough’s father, Dr. James Carruthers Greenough, was one of the most prominent educators of his day. He founded the Rhode Island State Normal School, became president of the Massachusetts State Agricultural College, and later was head of the Westfield (Massachusetts) State Normal School for many years. He married Jane Ashley Bates, and they had four children, of whom William Bates is the second child and eldest son. Dr. Greenough died December 4, 1924, and was predeceased by his wife in 1921.
William Bates Greenough, son of Dr. James Carruthers and Jane Ashley (Bates) Greenough, was born in Westfield, Massachusetts, November 22, 1866, and was graduated with the degree of Bachelor of Arts from Amherst College in the class of 1888. He later took post-graduate work at Yale University for one year, and in 1891 received his Master’s degree at Amherst. In the same year he graduated Bachelor of Laws from the University of South Carolina.
The formal professional career of Mr. Greenough began with opening of an office by him in Providence, March 1, 1892. He helped form the well-known law firm of Greenough, Easton & Cross, which was succeeded by the firm of Greenough, Lyman & Cross, of which he is now a member. He was appointed to the office of a standing Master in Chancery.
In 1895 he was appointed assistant city solicitor of Providence, this marking his formal entry into the public service. He filled the office until 1902, in which year he was appointed assistant Attorney-General of Rhode Island, and gave full proof during his term of three years of his ability to safeguard the interests of the Commonwealth. In 1904 he was elected Attorney-General of the State, being reelected annually for seven years and serving with distinction until he declined further reelection in 1911. He was also appointed a State Commissioner for Uniform State Laws, and a member of the Providence County Court House Commission, of which he is chairman. In addition to his having held the office of vice-president of the American Bar Association, he has served as president of the Rhode Island Bar Association, and is a member of the American Institute of Law. He has been president of the Alumni Council of Amherst College, and a member of the Rhode Island Society of Colonial Wars, in which latter body he has filled the offices of secretary, chancellor and Governor. He is also a member of the Rhode Island Society of the Order of Founders and Patriots of America, of which he is historian; a member of the Sons of the American Revolution, and the Rhode Island Historical Society. He is a member of the University Club, Agawam Hunt Club, Appalachian Mountain Club, and Providence Art Club.
William Bates Greenough married, September 27, 1893, at Newton, Massachusetts, Eliza Smith Clark, born June 16, 1866, the daughter of William Smith Clark, LL. D. Dr. Clark, born in 1826, died in 1886, graduated from Amherst College, Bachelor of Arts, in 1848. He was professor of Chemistry and Zoology at Amherst College from 1852 to 1867 and president of the Massachusetts Agricultural College from 1867 to 1878. He was colonel of the 21st Massachusetts Infantry in the Civil War, and a member of the Massachusetts Legislature in 1864, 1865 and 1867. To William Bates and Eliza Smith (Clark) Greenough were born these children: 1. Bertha Clark, on September 28, 1895, at Providence; graduated Bachelor of Arts at Bryn Mawr College in 1917 and Master of Arts in 1918. 2. William Bates, Jr., born on December 11, 1899; graduated from Massachusetts Institute of Technology with the degree of Bachelor of Science in 1923, and made a member of the faculty. He served in the United States Navy in the World War in 1918, and in 1923 was commissioned second lieutenant in aviation in the United States Army. He married Dorothy Garrison Rand on August 29, 1927 and has one child, Ann Forbes Greenough. 3. Jane Ashley, born June 19, 1904; graduated from Smith College in the class of 1926. She married, August 29, 1930, Liston Noble.
Source: Carroll, Charles. Rhode Island: Three Centuries of Democracy, vol 3 of 4. New York: Lewis historical Pub. Co., 1932.