1st Premier of Alberta. A member of the Alberta Liberal Party, he served in this position from September 1905 until May 1910. Born in Osgoode Township, Ontario, Canada, his parents emigrated from Scotland and operated a dairy farm. Following his local education, he attended the Canadian Literary Institute in Woodstock, Ontario, graduating in 1876, and became a teacher. His desire to become a lawyer led him to enroll at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, Canada and in 1881 he graduated with an arts and law degree. He then joined an Ottawa law firm and was called to the bar four years later. Following a visit to South Edmonton (now Strathcona) in the Northwest territories (now part of present-day Alberta) in 1894, he decided to relocate there which he did the following year, and established a law practice. In May 1902 he entered politics when he ran as an independent and was elected to the Northwest Territories Legislative Assembly from Strathcona, serving until September 1905. That same year, the Canadian federal government created two new provinces, Alberta and Saskatchewan, from the Northwest Territories and in September 1905 he was appointed Premier as a Liberal and during the general election two months later, he was overwhelmingly voted as Premier. During his tenure, he also served as the Minister of Education and Provincial Treasurer. His government founded the University of Alberta in Strathcona. Following the 1909 general election, he became the first Minister of Railways; however, his government was implicated in the Great Waterways Railroad Scandal and pressure from within his Liberal Party forced his resignation in May 1910 and he was succeeded by Arthur Sifton. He kept his seat in the Legislative Assembly until April 1913 when he lost to the Conservative Party candidate and left politics to resume his law practice. He became involved in a number of business enterprises, including president of the Edmonton Mortgage Corporation, vice president and solicitor of the Great Western Garment Company, as well a director of several insurance and trust companies. In 1927 he became Chancellor of the University of Alberta, remaining in that position until his death. In his later years, his health began to decline due to diabetes. He suffered a stroke in 1938 that left him paralyzed and unable to speak. With therapy, he was able to walk again and regained the use of some of his speech. He died of a heart attack in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada at the age of 84.
Bio by: William Bjornstad