William “Bill” Huston, who served at the helm of the Watson Land Company for more than 40 years, died on March 9 at the age of 83. Widely recognized throughout California as a leader in economic and industrial development, Huston was responsible for convincing the Dominguez Estate Company to sell its land to the state of California for a new public college in the South Bay region of Los Angeles. The site became the campus of California State College, Dominguez Hills and finally, California State University, Dominguez Hills.
“CSU Dominguez Hills would not exist were it not for Bill Huston,” says Judson Grenier, emeritus professor of history and author of “California Legacy: The Watson Family.” “He convinced the Dominguez Estate Company to sell its land to the state for the site of [the college]. Many of the stockholders were opposed, but he pushed it through, and then, further convinced Gov. Pat Brown and his financial adviser, Hale Champion, to present to the California State College Board of Trustees the option of purchasing the land.”
Huston worked with Grenier and other members of the Watson and Carson families, heirs of the original landowners, to bring the majority of the collection of the Dominguez family papers to the University Library, where they have resided since 1971.
“[The Dominguez papers remain] the first and one of the most important special collections in our library,” says Grenier. “Later in that decade, he asked me to undertake the history of the Watson-Dominguez family, with an important segment on the creation and history of the Watson Land Company. After each chapter was completed, he read through it, and we met in his … office for hours to correct errors of fact or interpretation. He joined me in working with the artists and book designers to put out the final product, and for a time, and for a time, he gave me a desk in his office to read proof and make editorial changes.”
Alison Bruesehoff, executive director of the Dominguez Rancho Adobe Museum, oversees the original site of the adobe home that Californio rancher and statesman Manuel Dominguez built on the Rancho San Pedro, the first Spanish land grant in California. She says that the legacy of Manuel Dominguez continues with the use of his family’s land for the urban university of the South Bay that bears his family’s name.
“As Dominguez family descendants, the Watson/Huston family embraced the same ideals as Manuel Dominguez to keep the land and use it to further the local economy,” she says. “Bill Huston’s support of using Dominguez land to build a college for the South Bay that would educate its workforce continues that tradition.”
Huston was born July 8, 1927, to Ralph and Helen Huston in Omaha, Neb. The family would later move to Akron, Ohio, where Huston went on to attend the University of Akron; he also attended John Carroll University in Cleveland. After serving in the Navy during World War II, Huston earned a law degree from the University of Notre Dame School of Law and subsequently moved to San Francisco where he worked for the FBI. After joining the law firm of Riley and Hall in Los Angeles, he completed post-graduate work in tax law at the University of Southern California.
Huston served the Los Angeles community as president of the California Chamber of Commerce and director of the National Association of Industrial and Office Parks, as well as the California Statewide Economic and Job Development Committee.
Huston married Susana Dolores Watson, a descendant of Dolores Dominguez and James Watson, in 1954. He is survived by Mrs. Huston and their eight children and their spouses: Catherine Huston and Jerry Hurtubise, Ann Huston and Ron Hallagan, Helen and Bob Zieman, Thomas and Kathy Huston, Mary and A.J. Coulter, Robert and Beth Huston, Jean and Todd Walker, and Elizabeth Huston. He is also survived by 18 grandchildren.
For more information on the history of the Dominguez family at CSU Dominguez Hills, click here.