William James Jr. was born on 1 May 1911 to William Finnegan and Nettie Steitz in St. Louis, Missouri. He was the only son, born between two sisters, Virginia and Margaret. When he was a child, his family lived with his grandparents, Will Steitz and Mary Sommers, and his uncle, Adam Steitz, on Melrose Avenue.

William married Loraine Webb on 4 April 1930 in St. Charles, Missouri, and began married life living with his sister, Margaret, and her family on Highland Avenue in St Louis. Bill worked as a laborer in road construction and Loraine was a clerk in a department store.

In the April 1940 census, Bill and Loraine’s family had grown to include three children, and the family had lived in the same two-family flat on Terry Avenue since at least 1935. When Bill registered for service for World War II in October, the family was living on Hodiamont within a block of Loraine’s mother, Jessie Webb, who had a boarding house on Theodosia Avenue. Both Jessie and his mother would live with Bill and Loraine in their later years.

Bill became a union electrician in IBEW Local Number 1 like his father. In 1949, the IBEW newsletter reported that Bill and his family were in California as he’d had some original ideas regarding the orange groves that could have resulted in meaningful work for electricians. The article stated he “had worked for the Dorsch Electric Company for about five years and St Louis men would declare him faithful to his union. He is a hard worker and very conscientious in all his duties, together with a fine personality.”

In the late 1950s, after Bill had returned to St. Louis, the family purchased their first house in the new Paddock Hills subdivision in Florissant where Bill became politically active. He was a member and president of the Paddock Hills Improvement Association and was instrumental in the reduction of an unfair property tax for the new homeowners. He served as a Florissant councilman and during his tenure; he worked to improve public transportation serving the area and was an advocate for the improvement along Coldwater Creek to resolve chronic flooding. He was chairman of the Florissant Youth and Civic Center.

William Finnegan Jr.
William Finnegan Jr.
Photo in the collection of Cindy Finnegan.
Used with permission

In 1972, he was the Democratic candidate for Missouri’s House of Representatives 56th District. He received endorsements in his political career from groups like the Suburban Teachers Association, the Teamsters, and several area Democratic clubs. Though his bid for state representative was unsuccessful, Bill continued working and supporting his community through his position on Florissant’s Building Commission Board of Appeals.

He belonged to the Stage Crew at Moolah Temple of the Scottish Rite. He was a Blue Lodge Paul Revere member of St. Louis Chapter 2 and a Shriner. He was well known as an active “CBer” in Florissant with a call name of “Wee Willie.” Shortly after his retirement, he lost his struggle with diabetes and passed away on 20 July 1976 survived by his wife and five children.

Written by Cindy Finnegan
March 2019

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Last Modified: 21-Jul-2019 15:01