Manitoba Historical Society
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Memorable Manitobans: William James Burgess (1896-1981)


Born at Minnedosa on 26 June 1896, son of Joseph Burgess and Edith Wake (1870-1952), he was educated at Minnedosa Public and High Schools. In August 1914, he enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force and went to Valcartier as a member of the 5th Battalion. He went overseas and saw service at Salisbury Plain, Ypres, and Givenchy. Wounded going into Festubert, he transferred to the 2nd Brigade Machine Gunners and served at St. Eloi, Sanctuary Wood, Somme, Vimy Ridge, Passchendaele, and Arras then transferred to the Royal Air Force and served in England before returning to Canada in April 1919. He articled in law with George A. Aikins at Minnedosa and was called to the Manitoba Bar in 1920. He practiced law at Hamiota and Minnedosa for more than 50 years. He was a member of the Canadian and Manitoba Bar Associations, solicitor for the Union Bank, and a Canada Bonded Attorney for Canada Trust Company and Huron and Erie Mortgage Company. He was made a Queen’s Counsel in 1962.

On 11 May 1921, he married Florence Mary Fairbairn (?-1980) at Minnedosa and they had three children. He was President of the Minnedosa Tennis Club and Manitoba Curling Association. He was instrumental in the establishment of the Grey Owl Golf Tournament. He was a Conservative candidate for the Hamiota constituency in the 1932 provincial general election and served as the Mayor of Hamiota (1934).

He died at Minnedosa on 12 October 1981 and was buried in the Minnedosa Cemetery.


Marriage registration, Manitoba Vital Statistics.

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

“Province names ten lawyers Queen’s counsels,” Winnipeg Tribune, 31 December 1962, page 13.

Obituary, Winnipeg Free Press, 13 October 1981, page 67.

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 15 April 2019

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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