FRED L. BUTTON
An attorney of high standing, Fred L. Button practiced continuously in Oakland for more than forty years, using
his legal acumen for the benefit of the city as well as for his own aggrandizement, and he also contributed toward
the cultural development of the community through his accomplishments as a musician. He was born March 10, 1856,
in Pontiac, Michigan, and in 1863 came with his parents to Oakland, where he has since resided.
After completing his grammar school course Mr. Button attended the McClure Academy and the College School. For
a few months he worked in the printing office of the Oakland Transcript, learning to set type, and in 1869 he entered
the first class of the local high school. In 1876 he was graduated from the University of California and was awarded
the university medal and also a prize for the best scientific thesis. For two years he was an instructor in mathematics
at the university and then took up the study of law in the office of Henry Vrooman and W. R. Davis, at that time
a leading Oakland firm. In 1879 he was admitted to the bar but remained with Mr. Vrooman until 1881, when he began
his independent professional career, and soon demonstrated his ability to cope with the intricacies of the law.
Mr. Button was an able advocate as well as a wise counselor and handled much important litigation, winning a large
percentage of his cases, for he never entered the courtroom without preparation as thorough as time and means rendered
possible. He continued in active practice up to the time of his death. As secretary of the board of freeholders
he aided in drafting the new city charter and under the direction of the councilmen of Oakland he often revised
the city ordinances. He twice codified and annotated for publication the ordinances and city charter and was always
ready to serve the municipality to the extent of his ability. His knowledge of the principles of jurisprudence
was comprehensive and exact, and in 1895 he revised for publication the standard law textbook, "Harlow on
Sheriffs." In 1896 he was nominated for the office of city attorney but declined the honor, which came to
Mr. Button was married in 1885 to Mrs. Emma Haas, a daughter of Captain Johland, of Napa, California, who was a
sea captain and an early resident of New Bedford, Massachusetts. He sailed around the Horn and made his home in
Napa, where his brother had previously located. To Mr. and Mrs. Button were born two daughters: Mrs. H. A. Merrill,
a resident of Oakland; and Mrs. Dan H. Knox, of Alameda. By her former marriage Mrs. Button has a daughter, Mrs.
N. T. Luning, of Oakland. She has two grandchildren, David H. and Fred E. Merrill. She is still residing at the
old home at 590 Thirty fourth street, Oakland.
In politics Mr. Button was a stanch republican and November 5, 1899, was unanimously appointed a school director
to fill a vacancy. He was elected for the following term and while serving on the high school committee was largely
instrumental in reorganizing and improving the personnel of the teaching force. A Mason in high standing, he was
chosen master of Oakland Lodge, No. 188, F. & A. M., in 1889 and also belonged to the local chapter, council
and commandery, to Oakland Lodge of Perfection of the Scottish Rite Consistory, and to Aahmes Temple of the Mystic
Shrine. His membership relations likewise extend to the Eastern Star and in 1890 he was made grand patron of the
At an early age Mr. Button showed evidences of musical talent, which was fully developed. In 1870, when a boy of
fourteen, he sang in the May Festival at San Francisco and later was a member of the choir of St. Paul's church
and also of the Independent church, of which the Rev. Hamilton was then pastor. For several years he was a director
and in 1880 was elected president of the original Orpheus Society, which at that time was a choral club of mixed
voices, led by the late W. J. Macdougall. In youth he began the study of the flute and readily mastered that difficult
instrument. For years he played in the Shrine, Templar and Bohemian Bands of San Francisco and Oakland, and in
1925 was one of the organizers of the California Flutists Guild of Oakland, of which he was made secretary. A patron
of the opera, Mr. Button had a collection of opera programs dating from his college days, and these were carefully
preserved in his scrapbook. As a youth he became interested in conchology, which was his father's hobby, and in
the course of a half century the family accumulated one of the largest and finest private collections of shells
in this country. In later years he took an interest in the radio, giving a number of talks over the same on various
subjects. He enjoyed travel, scenery, art and music, was just getting ready to enjoy life with his family when
he was called away.
In 1920 Mr. Button was one of the founders of the Oakland Pioneers Society and served as its president up to the
time of his death, which occurred October 2, 1927, when he was seventy-one years of age. With deep interest he
watched the development of Oakland and had an intimate knowledge of matters pertaining to its history. His activities
touched life at many points, and judged from the standpoint of service, his was a notably successful career.
History of Alameda County, California
BY: Frank Clinton Merritt
The S. J. Clarke Publishing Co.
Chicago, Ill 1928
Alameda County, CA
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