William Spry was born in Windsor, England in 1864. His father, Philip Spy, a tailor, and his mother, Sarah Townsend, were converted to Mormonism and in 1875 the family emigrated to America.
Spry worked as a rancher and on the railroad before becoming a tax collector. A member of the Republican Party, Spry, represented Tooele in the state legislature (1903-05) and served as U.S. marshall for Utah in 1906.
In 1908 Spry was elected as governor of Utah. While in power he created a state road commission and authorized the construction of the National Guard armory and the State Capitol building.
Re-elected in 1912, Spry passed a measure that gave husbands and women living together, joint and equal custidy of their children. Spry also developed a reputation for being hostile to the emerging trade union movement and was reported as saying that he intended to "stop street speaking" and to clear the state of this "lawless elements, whether they be corrupt businessmen, IWW agitators, or whatever name they call themselves"
In 1914 Spry had the problem of dealing with the case of Joe Hill who had been found guilty of the murder of J. B. Morrison, a former policeman. An active member of the Industrial Workers of the World, many believed that Hill was being punished for his political beliefs. argued that Hill had been framed as a warning to others considering trade union activity.
Bill Haywood and the IWW launched a campaign to halt the execution. Elizabeth Flynn visited Hill in prison and was a leading figure in the attempts to force a retrial. In July, 1915, 30,000 members of Australian IWW sent a resolution calling on Governor William Spry to free Hill. Similar resolutions were passed at trade union meetings in Britain and other European countries. Woodrow Wilson also contacted Spry and asked for a retrial. This was refused and Hill was executed by firing-squad on 19th November, 1915.
Spry also upset a lot of people by vetoing a prohibition bill in 1915. The following year the Republican Party decided not to nominate him as their candidate for governor.
William Spry who failed in his attempt to be elected to Congress in 1918, served as commissioner in the United States General Land Office until his death from a stroke in 1929.