Manitoba Historical Society
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Memorable Manitobans: Henry Walter Whitla (1874-1956)

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Henry Walter Whitla
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Lawyer, judge.

Born at Monaghan, Ireland on 14 July 1874, son of James Whitla and Charlotte Duncan, he came to Winnipeg in 1882 to live with his uncle Robert J. Whitla while attending St. John’s College, Wesley College (1893), and the University of Manitoba (MA). He was called to the Manitoba Bar in 1897 and worked in the law firm of Macdonald, Haggart and Whitla for several years.

He became Winnipeg’s first Crown Prosecutor in June 1909 and worked at the Winnipeg Police Court, during which time he also represented the Dominion Government in the western freight rate matter. He resigned in June 1910 (succeeded by Richard W. Craig) to refocus his efforts in a private partnership with Hugh Phillipps based in the Merchants Bank Building. He later abandoned the partnership in favour of working alone, was named King’s Counsel (1913), and built a large successful practice. In 1933, he succeeded Lewis St. George Stubbs as Senior County Court Judge of Winnipeg and served in that capacity for 17 years until retirement in November 1949. Highly respected inside and outside the courtroom, he was known for his courtesy, consideration, and fair judgement.

On 18 December 1904, he married Clara Ethel Burnham (1880-1934), daughter of Frederick E. Burnham, at Morden. They had two sons: Robert Meredith Whitla (1906-?) and Fredrick William Whitla (1908-1998). He served as President of the Young Conservative Association (1898-1899), President of the Winnipeg Kiwanis Club (1924), and District Governor of the Kiwanis (1925). He was a Conservative candidate for Winnipeg South in the 1914 provincial general election. He was a member of the Carleton Club, Adanac Club, Fellowship Club, Victoria Hockey Club (Secretary), Octave Bicycle Club, Kiwanis Club, Masons (Ancient Landmark Lodge No. 3), and Orange Lodge.

He moved to British Columbia around December 1955 and died at Vancouver on 1 March 1956. His body was returned to Winnipeg for burial in the St. John’s Cathedral Cemetery.

See also:

Historic Sites of Manitoba: Whitla House (72 Kingsway, Winnipeg)


Birth, marriage, and death registrations, Manitoba Vital Statistics.

1901 Canada census, Automated Genealogy.

Attestation papers, Canadian Expeditionary Force, Library and Archives Canada.

“Crown Prosecutor resigns,” Winnipeg Tribune, 17 may 1910, page 3.

“One more day for Crown Prosecutor,” Winnipeg Tribune, 30 May 1910, page 5.

“H. W. Whitla appointed paymaster of 251st,” Winnipeg Tribune, 30 October 1916, page 1.

“Named Judge Advocate General in District 10,” Winnipeg Tribune, 26 January 1919, page 6.

Pioneers and Prominent People of Manitoba, Winnipeg: Canadian Publicity Company, 1925.

“Whitla and Bernier appointed Manitoba County Court judges,” Winnipeg Free Press, 2 June 1933, pages 1 & 7.

“Two new judges,” Winnipeg Free Press, 6 June 1933, page 12.

“Whitla, Bernier are sworn in as Manitoba judges,” Winnipeg Free Press, 15 June 1933, page 2.

“Whitla, Bernier are sworn in as Manitoba judges,” Winnipeg Free Press, 15 June 1933, page 2.

“The oldtimer talks,” by G.C. Porter, Winnipeg Tribune, 13 July 1940, page 34.

“Sixty years ago - April 19, 1887,” Winnipeg Free Press, 19 April 1947, page 3.

“Senior County Court Judge, ex-City Prosecutor to retire,” Winnipeg Tribune, 16 November 1949, page 21.

“Judge H. W. Whitla honored on last day in County Court,” Winnipeg Free Press, 30 November 1949, page 3.

“Judge Whitla, 81, dies in Vancouver,” Winnipeg Free Press, 2 March 1956, page 14.

Obituary [Fredrick William Whitla], Winnipeg Free Press, 30 December 1998, page 44.

Obituaries and burial transcriptions, Manitoba Genealogical Society.

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough and Nathan Kramer.

Page revised: 1 November 2019

Memorable Manitobans

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