Memorable Manitobans: James Arthur “Art” Coulter (1916-2005)
Labour leader, municipal official.
Born at Winnipeg on 20 October 1916 to Lily Jane Caskey (1884-1985) and James “Jim” Coulter (1881-1944), brother of John Thomas Coulter, he grew up in the Weston neighbourhood. After graduating from Cecil Rhodes School and Daniel McIntyre Collegiate, he worked for Canada Malting where he started his lifelong dedication to the labour movement. He married Doris Lauderdale (1919-2000) in 1940 and then started his four-year term with the Royal Canadian Air Force where he achieved the rank of Flight Sergeant. Upon returning to Winnipeg, he became more involved in the union, organizing the shop and volunteering his time on committees and with the union executive. In the mid 1950s, he became the Secretary Treasurer of the Winnipeg Labour Council and was elected to Winnipeg City Council (1959-1960).
As a metro councillor in the 1960s, he worked with the Community Chest, which collected donations from local organizations and individuals and allocated it to a handful of charities. He was convinced that a more effective approach could be created, and his efforts led to the establishment of the United Way of Winnipeg in 1965. He was a founding member of Meals on Wheels, Social Planning Council, Labour Management Review Board, Manitoba Medical Services, and Manitoba Blue Cross (Chair, 1973). In 1968, he became Executive Secretary of the Manitoba Federation of Labour, serving until retirement in 1981. He was an advocate for social justice and staunch supporter of the New Democratic Party since its inception in 1960. He served as official agent for Stanley Knowles for over 25 years. He served as a board member for the Winnipeg Jets Hockey Club, St. Boniface General Hospital, Manitoba Medical Services Foundation, The Workers Compensation Board (Chair), and the Manitoba Labour Board.
He was honoured with a Distinguished Service Award from the University of Manitoba, a honorary doctorate from the University of Winnipeg (1974), a Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Jubilee Medal (2002) and induction into the Order of Manitoba (2003). In his retirement years, he was involved in advocating for seniors safety and also was a founding member of Fred Douglas Place in 1989, where he resided until his passing.
He died at Winnipeg on 11 April 2005 and was buried in the Chapel Lawn Memorial Gardens.
“Political activist a tireless advocate for labour rights,” Winnipeg Free Press, 12 April 2005, page B2.
Obituary, Winnipeg Free Press, 14 April 2005, page 23.
This page was prepared by Lois Braun and Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 8 January 2023