Memorable Manitobans: James Henry Gray (1906-1998)
Born at Whitemouth on 31 August 1906, and brought up in Winnipeg, he attended a succession of schools, including Victoria-Albert School, Norwood School, Strathcona School, Machray School, Isbister School, John M. King School, Mulvey School, Fort Rouge School, Gladstone School, Alexandra School, LaVerendye School, and Kelvin High School, leaving the latter after Grade Nine to work in the Winnipeg Grain Exchange. He spent the Great Depression on relief until he became a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press in 1935, working in the Ottawa press gallery until 1947, when he lost his job over his treatment of Canadian trade policy.
He later worked as a journalist in many parts of Canada, editing the Farm and Ranch Review and the Western Oil Examiner. He took early retirement in 1963 to complete the manuscript of The Winter Years (1966), which had been rejected by Macmillan nearly 20 years earlier. He subsequently wrote a series of autobiographical social histories of the Canadian Prairies, including The Boy from Winnipeg (1970) and The Roar of the Twenties (1975). Other historical works included Men Against the Desert (1967), Red Lights on the Prairies (1971), and Booze (1972).
Gray was at his best when he had some personal stake in the narrative, although his prose was always lucid. He won the Pierre Berton Award from Canada’s National History Society for distinguished achievement in popularizing Canadian history. In 1974 he was given an honorary doctorates by the University of Manitoba and Brandon University.
He died at Calgary, Alberta on 12 November 1998.
The Boy from Winnipeg by James H. Gray, Calgary: Fifth House Publishers, 1970.
“Passionate local write James Gray dead at 92,” Winnipeg Free Press, 15 November 1998, page 5.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 5 March 2014