Manitoba Historical Society
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Memorable Manitobans: Harold James Riley (1887-1975)

Lawyer, soldier.

Born in Winnipeg on 29 November 1887, youngest son of Robert Thomas Riley and Harriet Murgatroyd (1844-1902), he was educated at Mulvey School and was active in football, hockey, and rowing. He received a BSc degree in mechanical engineering at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute (Worcester, Massachusetts) followed by a law degree from the University of Manitoba. He was called to the Manitoba Bar in 1914 and practiced law with the firm of Fillmore and Riley. He was made a King’s Counsel in 1932.

In the First World War, he served in France as a Lieutenant Colonel and Battalion Commander with the 27th City of Winnipeg Battalion, was awarded the DSO three times, was mentioned in despatches four times, and was severely wounded in April 1916. At the outbreak of the Second World War, he was appointed a Brigadier-General in Military District No. 10 and, in 1942, he became Director of National Selective Service as a Major-General at Ottawa.

He served as a President of the Manitoba Bar Association and the Canadian Club of Winnipeg, and Chairman of the Red Cross Campaign and the Winnipeg Flood Relief Committee of 1950. He was a citizen member of the Winnipeg Police Commission and a member of the Bracken Royal Commission. He was chairman of the Manitoba Royal Commission on Medical Education, honorary President of the Crescentwood-River Heights Branch of the Royal Canadian Legion, honorary Life Governor of the Corps of Commissionaires, and honorary Patron of the United Services Institute. For meritorious community service, he was given a Manitoba Golden Boy Award (1962) and a Manitoba Centennial Medal (1970).

In 1921, he married Ruth McDonald Moore (?-?) of Denver, Colorado. They had four children: Harold James Riley (1922-1975, husband of Helen Palk, daughter of Lawrence Frederick Betts Palk), Ruth Murgatroyd Riley (1923-2017, wife of James MacLean Dowler), Thomas McDonald Riley (1925-1960), and John Moore Riley (1929-1992). He was a member of the Canukeena Club, Manitoba Club, and Winnipeg Squash Racquet Club (President, 1925-1926).

He died after a long illness at his Winnipeg residence, 1802-323 Wellington Crescent, on 7 July 1975.

See also:

Manitoba Business: Kershaw Theatre Limited


Birth registration, Manitoba Vital Statistics.

“Short-lived rejoicing follows fire in second school” by Claire Tisdale, Winnipeg Free Press, 28 January 1949.

Obituary, Winnipeg Free Press, 9 July 1975, page 38.

R. T. Riley, c1947. “Memoirs”. Manitoba Legislative Library, CT-1, Riley R, 119 pages.

We thank James Arnett, Joe Martin, and Janet Riley Bourbon for providing additional information used here.

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 11 June 2022

Memorable Manitobans

Memorable Manitobans

This is a collection of noteworthy Manitobans from the past, compiled by the Manitoba Historical Society. We acknowledge that the collection contains both reputable and disreputable people. All are worth remembering as a lesson to future generations.

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