Born in Maine, William Garland had an itinerant life that saw him travel the country, beginning his career as an employee of the dry goods firm, R. H. White and Co., in Boston, then acting as a stagecoach driver in Florida, and then working as a banker with Illinois Trust & Savings in Chicago. In the early 1890s he contracted tuberculosis and settled in California for his health. There he entered the real estate business, establishing W. M. Garland & Co. real estate company in the late 1890s. He headed the firm throughout his life and became a very wealthy man because of the boom in California land prices. Living in the Los Angeles area he became prominent in civic affairs and served on the boards of numerous Californian businesses. In 1926 he founded Western Air Express, which later became Transcontinental Western Airlines, and eventually Western Airlines. Elected a member of the IOC in 1922, Garland was instrumental in winning the bid for Los Angeles for the 1932 Olympic Games. He then served as President of the Organizing Committee for the Los Angeles Olympics, and was President of the Los Angeles Community Development Association from 1922-32, which was responsible for building the Los Angeles Coliseum, main site of the 1932 Olympics. In 1934 he was given the Sullivan Award, the only non-athlete to receive this, usually given to the top amateur athlete in the United States. Garland received decorations from over 15 nations in honor of his services to international sport and was awarded the Olympic Cup in 1942. He remained on the IOC until his death in 1948, when he was succeeded by his son, John Garland.