William Frederick Prisk was born in Nevada County in 1870. He began his career in the newspaper industry at ten years of age, as a newspaper carrier, advancing to typesetting a few years later. At the age of 18, he became a partner in the publication of the Grass Valley Evening Telegraph, the first of numerous newspapers in which he would hold an interest during his lifetime. Prisk worked as the paper’s typesetter, reporter and business manager. He worked for various newspapers in San Francisco and Sacramento before returning to Grass Valley in 1893 to become the editor and publisher of the Grass Valley Union. In 1897, he was elected to the State Senate, the youngest member of that body to that date. He served a single term, and did not run again because he did not enjoy politics.
He came to Southern California in 1906 and he and his brother purchased the Long Beach Press, which later became the Long Beach Press Telegram. Prisk’s intense drive to make Long Beach into one of the great cities on the West Coast made him a vigorous champion of harbor development, water development, and many other projects. For 40 years, his typewriter poured forth a barrage of pleas for harbor improvement, and he lived to see the one-time flat transformed into one of the world’s most active ports and a base for the U.S. Navy.
William Prisk died in Long Beach in 1962, at the age of 92. Two years earlier, he had been recognized by the state Legislature as “one of California’s most distinguished and best-loved citizens.” He was inducted into the California Newspaper Publisher’s Association Hall of Fame in 1965. During the 1950s, a Long Beach elementary school was name in his honor. Few editors worked as hard as William F. Prisk to make their hometowns into an ideal community, but such was the goal of this gentleman who was long known as “Mr. Long Beach” From his desk at The Press-Telegram he looked back on 52 years of service to the city that he loved and which in turn loved him.
Excerpts from: Historic Resources report Press-Telegram and Meeker/Baker Buildings Long Beach, CA
31 July 2006, rev 15 August 2006, and California Newspaper Hall of Fame.