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Memorable Manitobans: William James Major (1881-1953)

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William James Major
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Lawyer, MLA (1927-1932), MLA (1933-1936), MLA (1937-1940), judge.

Born at Yeovil, Somerset, England on 10 November 1881, son of Job and Emily Major, he came to Canada in 1901 to farm. He read law in Winnipeg, was called to the Manitoba Bar in 1913, and ran for the Manitoba Legislature in 1927, 1932, and 1936. In April 1927, he succeeded Richard W. Craig to became John Bracken’s Attorney General and served in the role for 14 years.

He prepared Manitoba’s briefs to the Rowell-Sirois Commission and supervised Manitoba’s survey of enemy aliens in 1939 before the start of the Second World War. He also served as Minister of Telephones and Telegraphs (1929-1941), Municipal Commissioner (1936-1939), and Minister of Dominion-Provincial Relations (1940-1941). In 1941, he was appointed to the Court of King’s Bench and served until retirement due to ill health in July 1951.

On 12 October 1904, he married Hedwig Frederika “Hadie” Kabel (1882-1968, daughter of Sophia Kabel of Winnipeg) and they had three daughters: Mona E. S. Major (1905-1930), Helen Irene Major (1909-1992, wife of Thomas George Fitzgerald), and Vera Inez Major (1916-1975, wife of E. J. Kennedy). He was a member of the Manitoba Club, Winnipeg Rotary Club, and Masons. He lived at 155 Helmsdale Avenue until around 1940.

He died at his Winnipeg home, 32 Cordova Street, on 13 August 1953 and was buried in the Elmwood Cemetery. There are papers at the Archives of Manitoba.

Sources:

Birth, marriage, and death registrations, Manitoba Vital Statistics.

1916 Canada census, Ancestry.

“W. J. Major succeeds Craig as Attorney-General,” Manitoba Free Press, 30 April 1927, page 1.

The Canadian Parliamentary Guide, 1929.

“Former Attorney-General Mr. Justice Major dies,” Winnipeg Free Press, 14 August 1953, page 1.

Obituary, Winnipeg Free Press, 14 August 1953, page 20.

“William James Major,” Winnipeg Tribune, 15 August 1953, page 6.

Obituary [Hadie Major], Winnipeg Tribune, 8 March 1968, page 23.

“Notice to creditors,”Winnipeg Tribune, 15 March 1968, page 27.

Members of the Legislative Assembly (deceased), Legislative Assembly of Manitoba.

Dictionary of Manitoba Biography by John M. “Jack” Bumsted, Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1999.

We thank Donald Burroughs for providing additional information used here.

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 2 November 2020

Memorable Manitobans

Memorable Manitobans

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