Biography of Philip M. Fisher
Alameda County, CA Biographies





PHILIP M. FISHER
Philip M. Fisher, born in Berlin, Pennsylvania, June 1, 1852 and settling in Alameda county, May 4, 1877, for fifty years has been one of California's most prominent educators, serving as teacher, principal, Alameda county superintendent of schools, editor and proprietor of the State Educational Journal, secretary of the senate committee on education and public morals, State Institute conductor, member of the Alameda county board of education, member of the board of trustees of the San Francisco State Normal school, and initiator of state legislation pertaining to teachers' annuities, tenure, union district high schools. With his efforts ever directed toward the welfare of both teacher and child, and standing for the schools as an instrument of the people rather than an organization purely for the advancement of educators as a professional body, he is one of California's most beloved public men, and one whose advice is sought on educational matters throughout the state.

Mr. Fisher's parents came from Germany as bride and groom in 1834, settling in Berlin, Pennsylvania. The father was German with a Holland strain, the mother German with a Normandy strain. The grandfathers on the Fisher side had been schoolmasters in the Rhineland country for three hundred years. Mr. Fisher's parents had nine sons and three daughters. Of the daughters, one died of black fever while a missionary in the Congo. Of the sons, eight taught school in their earlier careers, one became a country official and newspaper editor, two became superintendents of schools, two doctors of divinity, preaching in both German and English in prominent Pennsylvania cities.

Mr. Fisher himself, next to the youngest of the twelve children, began teaching in Pennsylvania at the age of fourteen, learned a trade, paid his own way through Mt. Union College, Ohio, and shortly after came to California.

His first educational work in Alameda county began when he taught in the Sunol school. Here he remained until January, 1880, when he was elected principal of the school at Washington Corners, now Irvington. From this position, in 1882, he was elected county superintendent of schools of Alameda county; was reelected in 1886, serving until January 1, 1891. During the 1891 state legislature session he served as secretary of the senate committee on education and public morals, under Hon. Guy C. Earl, chairman. In the sessions of 1893 and 1895 he served in a similar capacity.

During the period from July, 1891, to July, 1896, Mr. Fisher also was proprietor and editor of the Pacific Educational Journal, and in the same period he likewise was a conductor of teachers' institutes, in which capacity he directed institutes in fifty five counties of the state from Del Norte and Modoc to San Diego. In the summer of 1891 he maintained a Summer Training School for teachers at Coronado. In 1895 at the republican state convention he was candidate for state superintendent of public instruction, being the middle man of three and failing because of geographical distribution of political offices insisted upon by "practical politics."

In July, 1896, he was elected to the Oakland school department and assigned to the newly created Central Grammar at 12th and Market streets. This position he held through various stages of the school's growth from Central Grammar to Central high school, Polytechnic high, Manual Training and Commercial high, and its final change to Technical high and the new building at 42nd street and Broadway. Throughout the development of this school Mr. Fisher served for twenty eight years as head and directing mind, being absent from the school only two half days during the period.

He was named principal emeritus in 1924, and appointed to the position of director of academic studies in all the senior high schools of the Oakland system, a position he now holds. At the time of writing he holds the record in California for length of service in educational work, - fifty one years.

During this half century of work, Mr. Fisher was ever actively associated with school legislation. He has been president of the Oakland Teachers Association, and of the California High School Principals Association. In the '90s he represented his fellow county superintendents in an "Omnibus Bill" in which provisions of the school law were harmonized and simplified with increased financial aid provided. He was also author of the bill providing for the creation of the union district high schools in this state, a matter in which he collaborated with Mrs. May Cheney and the late Professor William Carey Jones of the University of California. This bill has been pronounced one of the most important educational measures in the state under it, and sponsored in legislature by Assemblyman Frank Farrett of Livermore, the Livermore section was organized as District No. 1.

In Mr. Fisher's busy career, he also found time to take a law course at Hastings Law School in San Francisco and many courses at the State University form which he holds a Master's degree.

Active always in teachers' welfare, he was a prominent factor in the adoption of tenure provisions and took much initiative in the writing and carriage of the Teachers' Annuity and Retirement laws; and to aid in supervising the professional work of the teacher he served many years on the board of trustees of the San Francisco state normal school. During the first thirty years in California he never missed the annual meetings of the State Teachers Association, and during the past thirty years he has continuously been a member of the Alameda county board of education.

In speaking of his educational experience, Mr. Fisher remarked that if, instead of coming to California, he had gone to Oregon where United States Senator Mitchell of Portland and Congressman Herman were his friends, he would probably have gone into law and politics. For this he stated he had no regrets. He is a man who loves school work and knows school work and is glad his lot was cast in glorious California, into every part of which his lecture work has taken him. He stated that at no time in his entire experience did he enjoy himself more than when teacher of the Sunol school where Judge William Donohu of the Alameda county bench was one of his pupils. He and the latter have maintained ever since the friendship that started then. His relations with his pupils at Irvington and Technical high school of Oakland have given him enduring pleasure.

Mr. Fisher was married at Mission San Jose to Anna C. Laumeister, member of a well known family of California and Alameda county pioneers, a devoted wife and mother and a woman of high ideals. The couple had two daughters and two sons, three of whom are graduates of the University of California. Both sons served in the World war one, Charles W. Fisher, now an Oakland attorney, as sergeant major of an ammunition train in France; the other, Philip M. Fisher, Jr., a writer by profession and now executive secretary to Mayor John L. Davie of Oakland, as an officer of the United States Destroyer Forces. Miss Annie Emerson, a former pupil and daughter of a pioneer family of Washington township, has been a member of Mr. Fisher's household for thirty five years.

From:
History of Alameda County, California
BY: Frank Clinton Merritt
The S. J. Clarke Publishing Co.
Chicago, Ill 1928


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