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Memorable Manitobans: Errick French Willis (1896-1967)

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Errick French Willis
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Lawyer, farmer, MP (1930-1935), MLA (1937-1940), MLA (1941-1945), MLA (1946-1949), MLA (1950-1953), MLA (1954-1957), MLA (1958-1959), MLA (1959-1962), Lieutenant-Governor of Manitoba (1960-1965).

Born at Boissevain on 21 March 1896, the son of Richard Gardiner Willis and Ellah French, he was educated at the Universities of Toronto (BA), Alberta (MA), and Manitoba (LLB), after which he practiced law in Winnipeg with the firm of Coleman, Sevail and Willis from 1926 to 1929 and in Boissevain from 1929 to 1933. He unsuccessfully stood for Parliament as a Conservative in Souris Constituency in 1926, but was elected and served as a member of the Bennett government of 1930. He ceased law practice in 1933 to take up farming.

He was defeated in the 1935 federal election by three votes. He later served as a Member of the Legislative Assembly from 1936 to 1960, Leader of Manitoba Conservative Party from 1936 to 1954, Provincial Minister of Public Works from 1940 to 1950, Minister of Agriculture from 1958 to 1960 and Deputy Premier from 1958 to 1959. He surrendered the Conservative leadership to Duff Roblin in 1954 and became deputy premier and minister of agriculture in the Roblin government. An enthusiastic curler, Willis skipped the Olympic Champion Canadian Curling Team at the 1932 Lake Placid Olympics.

In 1941, he married Louise Isabel Trimble at Calais, Maine and they subsequently had three children: Anna Jane Willis (b 1942), Richard “Dick” Willis (b 1944), and “Skip” Willis (b 1948). He served as Lieutenant-Governor of Manitoba from January 1960 to September 1965, the first native-born Manitoban to hold the office. In 1962 he was given an honorary doctorate by the University of Manitoba.

He died at Winnipeg on 9 January 1967. His extensive papers are at the Archives of Manitoba.

Sources:

The Canadian Directory of Parliament, 1867 - 1967, edited by J. K. Johnson, Public Archives of Canada, Ottawa [Library and Archives Canada], 1968.

Dictionary of Manitoba Biography by J. M. Bumsted, Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1999.

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 28 May 2017

Memorable Manitobans

Memorable Manitobans

This is a collection of noteworthy Manitobans from the past, compiled by the Manitoba Historical Society.

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