William H. Boyce

This article is about the lawyer and politician from early twentieth century Delaware. For other uses, see William Boyce (disambiguation).
William H. Boyce
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Delaware's At-large district
In office
March 4, 1923  March 3, 1925
Preceded by Caleb R. Layton
Succeeded by Robert G. Houston
Associate Justice
Delaware Superior Court
In office
June 17, 1897  June 15, 1921
Preceded by Charles M. Cullen
Succeeded by William W. Harrington
Personal details
Born (1855-11-28)November 28, 1855
Laurel, Delaware
Died February 6, 1942(1942-02-06) (aged 86)
Dover, Delaware
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Emma E. Valliant
Residence Georgetown, Delaware
Dover, Delaware
Profession lawyer
Religion Episcopalian

William Henry Boyce, (November 28, 1855 – February 6, 1942) was an American lawyer and politician from Georgetown, in Sussex County, Delaware, and later from Dover, in Kent County, Delaware. He was a member of the Democratic Party, who served as Associate Justice of the Delaware Superior Court and U. S. Representative from Delaware.

Early life and family

Boyce was born at Peppers Mills in Broad Creek Hundred, Sussex County, Delaware, near Laurel. He was the son of James H. and Sarah J. Otwell Boyce. James Boyce was in the lumber and merchandise business, and later farmed. He had been county Treasurer and the state Auditor of Accounts from 1887 until 1891. William Boyce attended the Laurel Academy, and in 1882 he married Emma E. Valliant. They had two children, Valliant and James and were members of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Georgetown.

Delaware lawyer

Beginning his career as an educator, Boyce was principal of the public schools at Laurel from 1875 until 1880, and at Oxford, Maryland, in 1880/1881. He was then appointed Recorder of Deeds for Sussex County, Delaware and served in that office from 1881 until 1886. During this time he studied the law under Alfred P. Robinson, was admitted to the Bar in 1887, and began a practice in Georgetown, Delaware. During these years he served variously as president of the Board of Education from 1883 until 1886; captain of Company G, Delaware National Guard from 1887 until 1890; and president of the Georgetown Town Council from 1895 until 1897.

Boyce was also chairman of the Sussex County Democratic Committee from 1893 until 1897 and a delegate to the Democratic National Conventions in 1896 and 1924. He was appointed Delaware Secretary of State Secretary of State, and served from January 19, 1897 until June 17, 1897, when he was appointed Associate Justice of the Delaware Supreme Court. Boyce served there for 24 years, from June 17, 1897 until June 15, 1921.

United States House of Representatives

Following his retirement, Boyce was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1922, and served one term from March 4, 1923 until March 3, 1925. He defeated incumbent Republican U.S. Representative Caleb R. Layton. Layton claimed he was beaten by blacks, angered by his refusal to support an anti-lynching law in the Congress. Seeking re-election in 1924, Boyce lost to Republican Robert G. Houston, a journalist, also from Georgetown. Boyce was not “flashy,” but was highly respected throughout the state. However, Houston had led the fight against J. Edward Addicks in Sussex County, had worked to clean up corruption in elections, and had been state Chairman of the Progressive Party. After his loss, Boyce resumed the practice of law in Dover, until his retirement from active practice in 1936.

Death and legacy

Boyce died at Dover and is buried there in the Christ Episcopal Church Cemetery.


Elections are held the first Tuesday after November 1. U.S. Representatives took office March 4 and have a two-year term.

Public Offices
Office Type Location Began office Ended office notes
Secretary of State Executive Dover January 19, 1897 June 17, 1897 Delaware
Associate Justice Judiciary Dover June 17, 1897 June 15, 1921 Superior Court
U.S. Representative Legislature Washington March 4, 1923 March 3, 1925

United States Congressional service
Dates Congress Chamber Majority President Committees Class/District
1923–1925 68th U.S. House Republican Warren G. Harding
Calvin Coolidge
Election results
Year Office Subject Party Votes % Opponent Party Votes %
1922 U.S. Representative William H. Boyce Democratic 39,126 54% Caleb R. Layton Republican 32,577 45%
1924 U.S. Representative William H. Boyce Democratic 35,943 41% Robert G. Houston Republican 51,536 59%


United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Caleb R. Layton
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Delaware's at-large congressional district

Succeeded by
Robert G. Houston
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