William Dudley Foulke was a lawyer, politician, reformer, journalist, author, poet and art patron, who spent much of his life in Richmond. He is probably best known as a lifelong advocate of civil service reform. Born in New York City, he was a graduate of Columbia College Law School in 1871, and he practiced law in New York until 1876. In 1872, he married Mary Taylor Reeves, daughter of Mark E. and Caroline M. Reeves of Richmond. In 1876, he moved to Richmond and became the law partner of Jesse P. Siddall.
While in Richmond he became involved in local politics, and served in the Indiana State Senate from 1882-1886. During that time he became interested in civil service reform and introduced a bill to establish Indiana’s civil service system. He also organized and became president of the Indiana Civil Service Reform Association. In 1889 the National Civil Service Reform League asked him to conduct an investigation into conditions of federal civil service. While he was in Washington he met fellow reformer Theodore Roosevelt, and soon after Roosevelt became President in 1901, he appointed Foulke a member of the Civil Service Commission.
Foulke was a leader in several other reform movements including women’s suffrage. From 1886-1890 he was president of the American Woman Suffrage Association.
Foulke was also a patron of the arts and literature. His home in Richmond was a center for literary clubs at which he presented many papers on widely varied topics. His published works cover an equally broad scope, covering history, current events, travel, fiction, and poetry. In 1898 he was one of the founders of the Richmond Art Association, and from 1906-1916 he was part owner and editor of the Evening Item newspaper in Richmond.