William Decatur Reed was born on February 15, 1815, near Danville in Boyle County. His family came to Kentucky from Virginia between 1775 and 1780. Their property was labeled “Reeds” on John Filson’s first map of Kentucky in 1784. His father was Jonathan Reed and his mother was Annie (Gaines) Reed.
William Reed was orphaned at a young age and was raised by his sister Letitia, the wife of Judge Paul J. Booker, near Springfield. He was educated at Centre College and, after a period of travel throughout the United States and Canada, studied law with Ben Chapeze at Bardstown. He then took the law course at Transylvania and was admitted to the practice of the law. He settled at Springfield to begin his law practice.
In 1841, Reed moved to Frankfort to practice before the Court of Appeals. In Frankfort he became a law partner of Charles S. Morehead. He was appointed Secretary of State by Governor William Owsley. He was elected to the General Assembly from Franklin County. He moved to Louisville in 1852 and entered into a law partnership with Judge Owen G. Cates. While in Louisville, he became one of the founders of the Southwestern Telegraph Company.
William Reed married Jane Maxwell Sharp, only daughter of Colonel Soloman P. Sharp, in 1839. The couple had five sons and two daughters. He died in Louisville on May 30, 1858.
H. Levin, "Lawyers and Lawmakers of Kentucky," (1897), pgs 200-3.