William Carpenter Bliss, distinguished lawyer and man of affairs, was born at East Providence, Rhode Island, on July 6, 1874, a son of George Newman and Fannie Amelia (Carpenter) Bliss. His father, also a lawyer, was judge of the Seventh Judicial District in this State for fifty-one years, until 1922. He was a man of genuine prominence in the State, a member of both the Senate and the House of Representatives, at various times, and for twenty-five years superintendent of schools at East Providence. During the period of the Civil War, he served as captain in the 1st Rhode Island Cavalry, from 1861 to 1865, and for the extreme gallantry of his conduct was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Mr. Bliss received his preliminary educational training in East Providence schools, and later entered Brown University from which he was graduated with the Bachelor of Arts degree in 1896, and a Master of Arts degree in 1898. In 1901, having completed the required course, he was graduated from the Law School of the University of Michigan with the Bachelor of Laws degree. In the same year he began his professional career at Providence, where his activities have since centered. Mr. Bliss has been an acknowledged leader of the Rhode Island bar for almost a quarter of a century. He has served, in addition, as a member of the General Assembly of the State in the House of Representatives from 1908 to 1912, and in 1911 was Speaker of the House. From 1910 to 1912 he was a member of the Joint Special Committee for the Revision of the Tax Laws, whose final report was adopted by the General Assembly in 1912, resulting the passage of the corporate excess and other tax laws which still remain in force. Since 1912 he has been chairman of the Public Utilities Commission of Rhode Island, discharging the duties of this difficult position with complete success.
In 1916, he presented to and secured the adoption by the financial town meeting of his native town of East Providence of a resolution creating a budget committee of the taxpayers, charged with the duty of passing judgment on all appropriations as recommended to the town meeting by the town council and school committee. He served as chairman of this budget committee for a period of ten years and the system still continues to function satisfactorily in a town of 30,000 inhabitants. The budget committee system, sometimes with modifications, has been adopted in some twelve other towns in the State.
Mr. Bliss is affiliated fraternally with the Free and Accepted Masons, being a member of Rising Sun Lodge, No. 30, Providence Chapter, Royal Arch Masons; and Calvary Commandery Knights Templar. During the period of the Spanish-American War, he enlisted and served as ensign in the United States Navy from 1898 to 1899, and since that time has held commissions of various grades until 1906 when he was made commander, commanding the Rhode Island Naval Militia, until May 26, 1915, when he was retired with the rank of captain. Mr. Bliss worships in the faith of the Congregational Church.
Source: Carroll, Charles. Rhode Island: Three Centuries of Democracy, vol 3 of 4. New York: Lewis historical Pub. Co., 1932.