William Palmer Wells was born at St. Albans, Vermont, February 15, 1831. He took a preparatory course at the Franklin County Grammar School in St. Albans, and then entered the University of Vermont, where he was graduated Bachelor of Arts in 1851. He commenced the study of law in St. Albans and took the degree of Bachelor of Laws at Harvard University in 1854. He received the highest honors of his class for a thesis on the Adoption of the Principles of Equity Jurisprudence into the Administration of the Common Law. The same year he was admitted to the Bar at St. Albans, and also received the degree of Master of Arts from the University of Vermont. In January, 1856, he removed to Detroit, Michigan, and entered the office of James V. Campbell. After a few months he became partner in the business and continued such until 1858, when Mr. Campbell became one of the judges of the Supreme Court of Michigan. Mr. Wells now continued in the legal profession without a partner. He soon became one of the leading lawyers of Michigan, his practice extending to all the courts of the State and to the courts of the United States. In 1874, during the absence of Charles I. Walker, Kent Professor of Law in the University of Michigan, he was appointed Lecturer on Law; and on Mr. Walker’s resignation in 1876, he was appointed to the vacant professorship. He continued in this position till 1885, when he was obliged to resign on account of pressure of private business. In January, 1887, he came a second time to the University to fill a vacancy caused by the temporary absence of Judge Cooley, Professor of American History and Constitutional Law; and in June of the same year he was called again to the Kent Professorship of Law, which he retained up to the time of his death. He was a member of the American Bar Association and for many years a member of its general council. He died suddenly at Detroit, March 4, 1891.
-- From "History of the University of Michigan" by Burke Aaron Hinsdale. Published by the University of Michigan in 1906.