(Nov. 3, 1850-Apr. 29, 1926). The only son of William Hayden English, English spent his early life in Lexington, Indiana, and moved to Indianapolis with his parents in 1865. An 1873 graduate of North Western Christian (Butler University), English briefly practiced law before becoming involved in local Democratic Party politics. He represented Marion and Shelby counties in the Indiana House of Representatives, 1879-1880, and authored legislation limiting the indebtedness of Marion County.

William E. English in his apartment at the English Hotel, ca. 1896
Credit: Indiana Historical Society

Beginning in 1880, English managed the English Opera House (and later Hotel) (see English Hotel And Opera House), which his father had built on the Circle. After serving in the U.S. House of Representatives, 1884-1885, he came home and reentered local Democratic politics. By 1892, English returned to national politics, serving as vice president of the National Association of Democratic Clubs and as a delegate to the Democratic national convention where he supported Grover Cleveland’s renomination. He managed Indiana Governor Claude Matthews’ bid for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1896. English later abandoned the party, supporting the Republican Party and its position on protective tariffs.

After his father’s death in 1896, English remodeled and expanded the English Theater, completed in 1897. When the Spanish-American War began in 1898, he declined a presidential appointment as a U.S. Army paymaster and volunteered as an aide to Maj. Gen. Joseph Wheeler in Cuba. Crushed beneath his wounded horse, English survived and returned home, where he helped found the United Spanish War Veterans, serving as its first commander-in-chief, 1904-1905. In 1900, he also organized the William E. English Camp No. 61, made up of Black veterans of that war.

The English Hotel on Monument Circle, 1923
Credit: Indiana Historical Society

Upon returning to Indianapolis, English reentered politics, serving as president of the city’s Board of Park Commissioners (1898-1900) and Safety (1904-1906). In 1904, he campaigned throughout Indiana for the Theodore Roosevelt-Charles W. Fairbanks presidential ticket (see Charles Warren Fairbanks). Later, he represented Hamilton, Hendricks, and Marion counties in the Indiana Senate, 1917-1923, and Johnson and Marion counties from 1923 until his death.

Active in numerous local organizations, English was a member of the Indiana Conservatory of the Scottish Rite and author of The History Of Early Indianapolis Masonry And Of Center Lodge (1895) and History Of Masonry In Indianapolis (1901). English also served as an officer of the Indianapolis Commercial Club, the Indianapolis Benevolent Society, and the Indiana Historical Society.

Revised February 2021

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