William Harding Mayes, attorney, newspaper editor, and teacher, son of Robert Chappell and Fredonia Charlotte (Stephens) Mayes, was born in Mayfield, Kentucky, on May 20, 1861. He attended Paducah District Methodist College at Milburn, Kentucky, Norton's English and Classical School at Union City, Tennessee, and Vanderbilt University. In 1881 he was admitted to the Kentucky bar and in 1882 to the Texas bar. He practiced in Mayfield, Kentucky, in 1881 and in Brownwood, Texas, from 1882 to 1886. He was county attorney of Brown County from 1882 to 1883, editor and publisher of the Brownwood Bulletin from 1887 to 1914, and lieutenant governor of Texas in 1913–14. Daniel Baker College gave him an honorary doctorate in 1914. Mayes founded the school of journalism at the University of Texas and served as its dean for twelve years. In 1920–21 he was president of the Association of American Schools and Departments of Journalism.
He married Jessie Ware on November 26, 1886; they had four children. After his wife's death in 1899, Mayes married Anna Marshall on August 2, 1900; they were the parents of three children. Mayes was executive vice president of the Texas Centennial Committee. He died at his home in Austin on June 26, 1939, and was buried in Greenleaf Cemetery, Brownwood.