WILLIAM J. OTTS
Recognized as one of the most efficient and shrewd detectives of San Francisco is William J. Otts, whose offices
are in the Balboa building. He was born in Canton, Mississippi, June 24, 1881, and was brought to San Francisco
when he was only three years of age. Here he obtained his schooling, and when a young lad he started to learn the
printing trade in the employ of the E. C. Hughes Printing Company. During his younger years, he also gained wide
fame as a professional boxer, having first entered the ring when he was fifteen years old. He boxed under the title
of Fighting Bill Otts, and in the one hundred and twenty six bouts in which he engaged he lost but four decisions.
From the time he first stepped through the ropes at the old Manhattan Athletic Club, he won a wide reputation as
a courageous and skilful pugilist, and fought both as a lightweight and as a welterweight.
When Mr. Otts was about fifteen years of age, he became interested in criminology, and eagerly sought every available
book which had been written upon the subject. It may be noted at this point that he now possesses one of the finest
libraries of the country on criminological subjects. He was serious in his desire to take up the work of investigating
criminal cases as his life's career, and gradually he worked into the profession and began to acquire a name, and
in the succeeding years he was entrusted with many of the most important and difficult cases in San Francisco.
For thirteen years, he was chief investigator for William J. Burns, internationally famous detective, and his work
has taken him to practically all of the capital cities of the world. For two years, he was on the staff of the
late President Obregon of Mexico, and he was among those who investigated the destruction of the Los Angeles Times
building in 1910, resulting in the conviction of the McNamaras. Mr. Otts was the first to use the finger print
method of crime detection in San Francisco. He and Detectives Ryan and O'Day formulated this system at the Baldwin
Hotel, while they were on a case. He founded his present organization in the year 1923, and it now includes five
world known criminologists and forty seven investigators. He caters to the leading class of citizens, and in the
cases which are assigned to him the strictest secrecy is maintained, no press publicity being allowed. He has superintended
the investigation of seventeen separate graft irregularities in California.
Mr Otts was married to Lena Yancey, a native of the state of Georgia, and to their union have been born two children,
namely: Ardine, who is a student in the Junior College of San Mateo, California; and William J., Jr., who is attending
the Lowell high school in San Francisco.
Mr. Otts is the secretary of the San Francisco committee of the United Vigilantes of America, which has twelve
thousand members in California alone. This is a non political and nonsectarian organization "conceived to
perpetuate liberty, justice and equality for all citizens of the United States." It has to do principally
with opposing political graft, corruption in public office, and organized criminal influence on administrations,
whether city, county or state. For ten years, he was governor of the Pacific department of the Yeomen, and he is
a past grand viceroy of the Imperial Order of Dragons, which is an order commemorating the Chinese relief expedition
of 1900. Mr. Otts is also a veteran of the Spanish-American war.
It is a known fact that real success in detective work is difficult to attain, and requires ability of singular
character, combined with strong initiative, courage, and the finest tact. That Mr. Otts possesses these personal
qualities has been demonstrated through the years he has been active in his profession in San Francisco. Both in
his work and in the different circles in which he moves he is popular and has won many friends.
The History of San Francisco, California
Lewis Francis Byington, Supervising Editor
Oscar Lewis, Associate Editor
The S. J. Clark Publishing Company
Chicago-San Francisco 1931
San Francisco, CA
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