William Travis Cross was born in Salem, Oregon, in 1927. He attended Stanford University for a quarter in 1944, but left to serve in the U.S. Navy during World War II. After his discharge, he continued his studies at Willamette University, where he met Beverly Jean Briggs. They were married in 1949 and later had four children. He returned to Stanford to complete his degree. While at Stanford, he became close with Mark Hatfield. After graduating in 1949, he worked in the chancellor's office at Willamette University, up until Hatfield became Oregon secretary of state in 1957. Cross joined Hatfield's staff and remained one of his closest advisors until Hatfield was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1967. After leaving Hatfield's staff, Cross worked in public relations for the University of California from 1969 to 1975, when he returned to Portland, Oregon, to continue public relations work for the Providence St. Vincent Medical Foundation. He retired in 1992. He also served on the Meyer Memorial Trust from 1982 to 1997. He died in 2004.