James King was born of Scottish-Irish parentage on Jan. 28, 1822, in Georgetown, Md. He early ascribed to himself the morals and diligence of the New Englander.
To avoid misidentification with others similarly named, the youthful James King added the patronymic “of William,” thus revealing certain traits that were dominant in his character, an aggressive ego, a certain exhibitionism, a desire to stand apart from and above the crowd.
King’s early years passed in a prosaic fashion, and in 1841 at the age of 19 he started as a bank clerk. For seven years, he toiled diligently to learn the skills of the financier.
Early in 1848, his health failed and King was lured to both a warmer climate and richer economic opportunity in Oregon by letters from his brother. While en route to the Pacific Northwest, news of discovery of gold reached him. On Nov. 10, 1848, the future editor debarked at San Francisco and moved on to the Sierra gold camps.
The gold diggings were for the most hardy, and as a result many failed. The weak either perished or crawled back to San Francisco for a handout. The wise became merchants and money lenders. King became a banker.
*Hall of Fame inductees are selected annually by a committee appointed by the California Press Foundation. They recognize career achievements of weekly and daily publishers in California who were important and influential in their era, as judged by their peers in the association. The write-ups are a historical and journalistic snapshot in time and not official biographies.*