Manitoba Historical Society
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Memorable Manitobans: John Evans Adamson (1884-1961)

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John Evans Adamson
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Lawyer, judge.

Born at Nelson on 9 September 1884, son of Alan Joseph Adamson and Julia G. Turriff (1857-1925), he was educated at Manitoba public schools, Manitoba and Saskatchewan High Schools, St. John’s College, University of Manitoba (where he won the Governor General’s Gold Medal for philosophy), and Osgoode Hall (Toronto). He was a law student with Hugg & Kelley, 1907; Munson, Allan, Laird & Davis; Aikins, Robson, Fullerton & Coyne, Winnipeg. He was called to the Manitoba Bar and commenced practice of law in 1910. In 1911, he was Barrister-at-law, 24 Royal Bank Building, 460 Main Street, Winnipeg.

He was a candidate in the 1917 and 1921 federal general elections, being defeated each time. He was appointed to the Court of King’s Bench in May 1922 and the Court of Appeal in January 1948. During the Second World War, as Chairman of the Manitoba Mobilization Board, he vigourously challenged Mennonites who claimed conscientious objector status. He became Chief Justice of Manitoba in January 1955, the first native Manitoban to hold the post. He served until February 1961, when an amendment to the British North America Act forced him to retire against his will. In 1955 he was awarded an honorary degree by the University of Manitoba.

He married Mary Wilson Turriff (1888-1973) of Regina, Saskatchewan, with whom he had a son who died in infancy and four daughters: Eva Mary Adamson (1915-?, wife of S. G. Pugh), Joan Edith Adamson (?-?, wife of J. M. Hunt), Julia Adamson (1917-?, wife of T. N. Dickson), and Clementina Adamson (?-?, wife of M. O. Bidwell). In 1911, he lived at 161 Mayfair Avenue, Winnipeg. By 1925, he lived at 254 Kingsway Avenue, Winnipeg. He was a member of the St. Charles Country Club, Carleton Club, Western Canada Military Institute, Anglican church, and AF & AM. He served as a President of the Manitoba Golf Association. He enjoyed golf, hunting, motoring, and travelling.

He died at Winnipeg on 22 December 1961 and was buried in the St. John’s Cathedral Cemetery. He is commemorated by Adamson Street in Winnipeg.


1901 Canada census, Automated Genealogy.

Who’s Who in Western Canada: A Biographical Dictionary of Notable Living Men and Women of Western Canada, Volume 1, edited by C. W. Parker, Vancouver: Canadian Press Association, 1911.

Birth registrations, Manitoba Vital Statistics.

“Law groups to honour city jurist,” Winnipeg Free Press, 27 April 1960. [Manitoba Legislative Library, Biographical Scrapbook B12, page 11]

“Ex-Chief Justice, John Adamson dies,” Winnipeg Free Press, 22 December 1961, page 1.

Obituary, Winnipeg Free Press, 23 December 1961, page 45.

Dictionary of Manitoba Biography by John M. “Jack” Bumsted, Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1999.

Obituary [Joan Edith Hunt], Winnipeg Free Press, 28 August 2004.

The Court of Queen’s Bench of Manitoba, 1870-1950: A Biographical History by Dale Brawn, Toronto: Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History, 2006, 432 pages.

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 6 April 2019

Memorable Manitobans

Memorable Manitobans

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