William James Potter was born on 1 February 1829 in North Dartmouth, Massachusetts. He grew up in a Quaker community as an extremely serious and very shy person. Potter was educated in the district schools of Dartmouth, the Friends Board School at Providence, Rhode Island, and the Bridgewater Normal School. He graduated from Harvard College with the BA degree in 1854, having been strongly influenced by William E. Channing and Theodore Parker. After teaching a year, he entered Harvard Divinity School in 1856. From 1857 to 1859 he studied at various German universities. Potter was ordained and installed on 28 December 1859 as minister of the First Congregational Society of New Bedford and served in this position until retirement in 1892. Potter died on 21 December 1893 in Boston, Massachusetts.
From The Dictionary of Modern American Philosophers in Oxford Reference.