Memorable Manitobans: David Aaron Golden (1920-2012)
Lawyer, civil servant, telecommunications pioneer.
Born at Sinclair on 22 February 1920, one of four children of Russian immigrants Sholem Wilfrid Golden (1885-1970) and Rose Perlman (1890-1987), he spent his early childhood in Vancouver and Montreal before returning to Winnipeg at the age of 11. He attended public school in Winnipeg and also the I. L. Peretz Folk School. To raise money for university education, he borrowed money from his uncle Sam Perlman and enrolled in the Law School of the University of Manitoba, graduating in 1941.
He was selected a Rhodes Scholar in 1941 but enlisted in the Canadian Army rather than attending Oxford University. He joined the Winnipeg Grenadiers as an intelligence officer, rising to the rank of Captain. He was in Hong Kong when it was invaded by the Japanese army and spent the next three years and eight months in a prisoner-of-war camp. On returning to Winnipeg after the war, he was admitted to the Manitoba Bar and travelled to England to take up his Rhodes scholarship. He spent eight months in England then returned to Winnipeg in 1947. He practiced law with Samuel Freedman and also taught at the University of Manitoba Law School.
In 1951, he accepted an invitation to join the legal branch of the federal Department of Defence Production, which necessitated a move to Ottawa. He rose quickly, to Branch Director, then to General Counsel, then Assistant Deputy Minister. In September 1954, at the age of 34, he became the youngest Deputy Minister in Ottawa. It was during his tenure with the Department that the Avro Arrow project was cancelled.
He resigned from the federal civil service in 1961 and spent a year at the Air Industries Association of Canada (AIAC) before returning to government for a year as Deputy Minister in the newly-created Department of Industry. In July 1962, he became President of the AIAC. In 1969, when the federal government created Telesat Canada consortium with private industry to develop a communications satellite system for the country, Golden became its Founding President. The firm launched its first Anik A1 satellite in November 1972 and he received the first long-distance telephone call carried by satellite in Canada, from Resolute to Ottawa. He stepped down as President in 1981 but remained Chairman and a full-time employee until retirement in 1985.
On 9 September 1946, he married Molly Berger at the Royal Alexandra Hotel and they had three children: Mark Golden (1948-2020), Peter Golden (1952-2018), and Sarah Lynn “Sari” Golden (1954-1983). In recognition of his service to Canada, he was inducted into the Order of Canada in 1977. He received honorary doctorates from the University of Manitoba (1986), Carleton University (?), and University of Winnipeg (2011). He was inducted into the Canadian Telecommunications Hall of Fame (?) and received the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal (2002) and Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal (2012).
He died at Victoria, British Columbia on 20 July 2012.
“David A. Golden wins Rhodes scholarship,” Winnipeg Tribune, 9 December 1940, page 11.
“Molly Berger becomes bride of David A. Golden,” Winnipeg Tribune, 10 September 1946, page 8.
We thank Jo-Anne Douglas for providing additional information used here.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 10 June 2020