Memorable Manitobans: John King Gordon (1900-1989)
Human rights advocate, author.
Born at Winnipeg on 6 December 1900, son of Rev. Charles W. Gordon and Helen Skinner King (1875-1961), he was educated at Kelvin High School and graduated from the University of Manitoba in 1920. He was a Rhodes scholar at Oxford in 1920-1921. He later studied theology at what became United College, graduating in 1927, and did graduate work at Oxford and the Union Theological Seminary. He served as a United Church minister in Manitoba and then as professor of Christian ethics at the Union Theological Seminary in Montreal from 1931 until 1935, when he was dismissed for his left-wing opinions.
In the 1930s and 1940s he was active in the CCF and the League for Social Reconstruction. He served as a book and magazine editor (managing The Nation magazine from 1944 to 1947) and was UN correspondent for the CBC from 1947 until 1950, when he became human rights and information officer for the UN. He held that post until 1962. He served with several UN social and cultural agencies in a variety of places, including Korea and the Congo.
After retirement he wrote and lectured extensively on social and international issues. The author of The UN in the Congo (1962) and The New International Economic Order (1976), he was awarded honorary degrees from Brandon University (1974) and the University of Manitoba (1981). He was awarded the Order of Canada (1977) and the Pearson Peace Medal (1980).
He died at Ottawa, Ontario on 24 February 1989. His papers are at Library and Archives Canada.
Obituary, Winnipeg Free Press, 25 February 1989, page 40.
Dictionary of Manitoba Biography by John M. “Jack” Bumsted, Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1999.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 2 November 2022