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Historical Biography

Solicitor General: William L. Frierson

Photo of Solicitor General William L. Frierson
William L. Frierson
17th Solicitor General, -

William L. Frierson was born on September 3, 1868, in Shelbyville, Tennessee to Robert Payne and Mary (Little) Frierson. Frierson graduated in 1887 from Southern Presbyterian University in Clarksville, Tennessee. In 1929, Frierson received an honorary law degree from Southwestern Law School in Memphis, Tennessee. He began practicing law in his hometown of Shelbyville in 1889. The following year he moved to Chattanooga, Tennessee, where he worked in various law firms until 1917.

Frierson held a variety of local government positions before being appointed U.S. solicitor general. In 1905, Frierson was elected mayor of Chattanooga and held that position until 1907. He served as city attorney from 1912-1915. Subsequently, Frierson was named a special justice of the Tennessee Supreme Court in 1916. In 1917, Frierson was appointed Assistant Attorney General of the United States, a position he held until 1920. In June of 1920, President Wilson nominated and the Senate confirmed Frierson to be solicitor general. As SG, Frierson made persuasive arguments upholding the National Prohibition Act of 1919, which enforced the Eighteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution dealing with the prohibition of alcohol. When the question arose regarding the sale and possession of alcohol by Americans on ships, the Supreme Court agreed with his argument that no liquor could be sold on any U.S. flagged vessels.

After serving as solicitor general, Frierson returned to Chattanooga to be a member of the Williams & Frierson law firm. From 1922-1923, he served as president of the Tennessee State Bar Association. William married Margaret (Daniel) on April 20, 1892, with whom he had three children: Mrs. Margaret Williamson, Robert Payne, and Mrs. Sue Lawwill. On May 25, 1953, Frierson died of a cerebral hemorrhage at the age of 83.

Updated September 18, 2023