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Historical Biography

William D. Riter

William D. Riter, AAG, Public Lands
William D. Riter
5th Assistant Attorney General, Public Lands, -

Early History/Schooling:  William Delamater Riter was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, on August 10, 1874.  After attending the University of Utah, he studied law at Columbia University, graduating in 1897.  In 1919, the University of Utah named Riter an Honorary Doctor of Laws.

Tenure as AAG:  On April 5, 1921, President Harding appointed Riter as Assistant Attorney General under Attorney General Harry Daugherty.  During his tenure, Riter participated in the first of several meetings of the under- and assistant secretaries from across the administration, known as the “Dinner Cabinet.”  These dinner meetings had no formal agenda, but sought to develop and strengthen interagency relationships without the burden of bureaucracy and hierarchy.  In 1922, Riter published an article in The North American Review, titled “Constitutional Conventions,” in which he expounded the constitutional elements of federal and state powers.  On January 15, 1924,  Riter resigned his position to practice law in the District of Columbia.

Career:   Riter practiced law in Salt Lake City until the outbreak of the Spanish American War in 1898.  He served in Battery A of the Utah Light Artillery during that war and fought in the attack on Manila in the Philippines.  Riter returned to Utah in 1899 and resumed practicing law as a partner of George Sutherland.  (Sutherland later served in the House of Representatives and the Senate before being appointed Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.)  Riter was president of the Utah Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution, president of the Utah Bar Association in 1916, a member of the American Bar Association, and a member of the Alta Club in Utah.  He was a thirty-second degree Mason, one step below the highest level of Masonry.

Personal:  Riter married Lennie Louise Savage, a Salt Lake Theatre opera singer, and the couple had three children, Virginia, Denton, and Helen.  Riter died on January 19, 1927 at Walter Reed Hospital.

This material is based on the review of a variety of historical sources, and its accuracy cannot be guaranteed.  If you have any corrections or additional information about this individual or about the history of the Division, please contact ENRD.

Updated June 8, 2023