William Fife Long was born in Charlottesville on February 2, 1874, the son of John Cralle Long. His father, a Baptist minister, moved shortly after William's birth to Crozier, Pennsylvania, where he taught history at Crozier Theological Seminary. It was not until 1895 after graduating from Richmond College and teaching for a year that William Long returned to Charlottesville to attend law school at the University. He received his law degree in 1897 and hung out his shingle in the spot where seventy years later he would end his law practice. This little building, No. 220 Court Square, had earlier served as law office to U.S. Senator Thomas S. Martin. Long slept in one room and saw clients in the other. To make ends meet he also worked for a time at the Michie Company. After serving in the Spanish American War in 1898 as a member of the Charlottesville Monticello Guards, he formed a partnership with John S. White, son of Judge John M. White of the Circuit Court of Albemarle County. In 1914 he became Commissioner of Accounts of the Circuit Court, a position he held for 53 years, until he closed his law office about two weeks prior to his death.
Long was a member of the Board of Zoning Appeals for almost 25 years and pushed the City Council to pass the "Architectural Design Control Ordinance." In May 1962, the Charlottesville and Albemarle Bar Association held a special meeting to express its affection for Long, its senior member, by presenting him a framed resolution naming him the first Patriarch of the Bar.
William Long was married to Ada Perry; their one child, Frances, who married James B. Hodges, had five children. Ada Long died in 1960, and William died March 11, 1967 at the age of 93.