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Dictionary of Miramichi Biography

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BENNETT, RICHARD BEDFORD (1870-1947)

BENNETT, RICHARD BEDFORD, teacher and lawyer; prime minister of Canada; b. Hopewell, N.B., 3 Jul 1870, s/o Henry John Bennett and Henrietta Stiles; unmarried; d. Juniper Hill, Mickleham, Surrey, England, 27 Jun 1947.

R. B. Bennett received his early schooling in Albert County and graduated from the Provincial Normal School in 1888. In September of that year he was appointed principal of the four-classroom school at Douglastown. He occupied this position, in which he gave "splendid satisfaction," for two years. He then left to study law at Dalhousie University, but he returned the following summer to work in the Chatham law office of Lemuel J. Tweedie. He maintained this connection, and after he was granted an LLB in 1893 he became Tweedie's law partner. While living in Chatham he was an active member of St Luke's Methodist Church and president of the church's Epworth League. He was elected to the original Chatham Town Council in 1896 but resigned in January 1897 after deciding to move to Calgary.

Bennett later represented Calgary in the Legislative Council of the Northwest Territories, of which Alberta was then a part, and in the House of Commons, in which he served in the cabinet of Arthur Meighen before he himself was elected prime minister in 1930. Unfortunately, he became extremely unpopular as the leader of the country during the depression years, and his government suffered a crushing defeat in the election of 1935.

Bennett was a partner in Lougheed & Bennett, one of the most influential law firms in western Canada. He was also one of Canada's wealthiest men, once holding the controlling interest at one time in the E. B. Eddy Co. of Hull, Que., thanks, it was said, to his friendship with the John Shirreff family while he lived in Chatham. In 1938 he retired from public life and moved to England, where he bought a country estate and was given a viscountcy in 1941. A few years before his death he made a gift of $750,000 to Dalhousie University, where he had acquired his legal training half a century earlier, and which had conferred an honorary LLD on him in 1919.

Sources

[b/d] Can. Encycl. / Advance 17 Jan 1895; Advocate 13 Jan 1897, 26 Apr 1927; Educ. report 1889; Encycl. Can.; Fraser (C)


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