Memorable Manitobans: Sidney Earle Smith (1897-1959)
Educator, administrator, politician.
Born at Port Hood, Cape Breton Island on 5 March 1897, he was educated at King’s College (BA, MA) and Dalhousie University (LLB). After service in the Canadian Expeditionary Force during the First World War, he was called to the Nova Scotia Bar in 1921 and appointed to the faculty at Dalhousie University. He taught at Osgoode Hall from 1925 to 1929, then became Dean of Law at Dalhousie from 1929 to 1934, when he was appointed President of the University of Manitoba. In 1941 he was mentioned as a possible leader of the Conservative Party, but John Bracken got the position instead. Smith helped restore the University of Manitoba after the disastrous Machray defalcation.
His great triumph was the creation of an interdisciplinary humanities curriculum (called the “Western Civilization” curriculum) in the middle of the Second World War. For financial reasons, it was never introduced. Smith left Manitoba to become the Principal of University College (Toronto) in 1944, and became President of the University of Toronto a year later. He saw the University of Toronto through its crucial post-war years and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 1950. In 1957, he left Toronto to become John Diefenbaker’s Minister for External Affairs, and MP for Hastings-Frontenac. He was given an honorary doctorate by the University of Manitoba in 1945.
He died of a heart attack at Ottawa, Ontario on 17 March 1959 and was buried in Nova Scotia.
Attestation papers, Canadian Expeditionary Force, Library and Archives Canada.
“Sidney Smith dies in Ottawa,” Winnipeg Free Press, 17 March 1959, page 1.
“State funeral Thursday for Smith,” Winnipeg Free Press, 18 March 1959, page 1.
Dictionary of Manitoba Biography by John M. “Jack” Bumsted, Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1999.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 3 March 2017