Memorable Manitobans: William John “Jack” McKeag (1928-2007)
Businessman, Lieutenant-Governor of Manitoba (1970-1976).
Born at Beresford on 17 March 1928, son of Thomas McKeag (1873-1944) and Isabella Cathcart (1896-1929), he was 18 months old when a car-train collision at Chater killed his mother and older sister. His father consented to his adoption by his uncle George Hammill McKeag and aunt Elizabeth “Elbe” Biggar (1891-1983). He grew up in Winnipeg attending Queenston School, Robert H. Smith School, and Kelvin High School, graduating in 1949 from the University of Manitoba with a Bachelor of Commerce degree. He joined the family business, Security Storage Limited and remained there until it was sold to British Traction in 1956. He then founded McKeag Harris Realty, later known as McKeag Realty.
He served on many Boards of Directors nationally and internationally. In 1973 he was appointed Honorary Colonel of the Fort Garry Horse, supporting the regiment until his retirement in 1998. He was also a booster of the Winnipeg Jets hockey club. While President of the club (1976-1977), he spearheaded the first Save-The-Jets campaign. He loved duck hunting and joined Ducks Unlimited (Canada) in 1976, serving as its President (1984-1985) and Chairman (1986-1988). He was also Chairman of the Manitoba Museum of Manitoba and Nature (1979-1981).
He loved politics and worked locally for the Liberal party through many elections. He ran for office provincially in the 1958 general election but lost to William Blakeman Scarth. In 1970, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau appointed him as Lieutenant-Governor of Manitoba, the second-youngest person ever appointed to the position. During his six-year tenure, over 36,000 people from all walks of life attended functions in Government House.
On 28 December 1950, he married Dawn Rue’Ann Campbell (1927-2015, daughter of Douglas Lloyd Campbell) and they had three daughters and a son. He was a member of the Lakewood Country Club, St. Andrew’s River Heights United Church, and Winnipeg Kiwanis Club, serving the latter as President and District Governor of the prairie district. In recognition of his community service, he was inducted into the Order of Canada (1996) and Order of Manitoba (2000). He was given honorary doctorates by the University of Winnipeg (1976) and University of Manitoba (1977), and he received the Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal (1977) and Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal (2002).
He died at Winnipeg, after a brief illness, on 23 August 2007.
Marriage and death registrations, Manitoba Vital Statistics.
“Resident of Douglas killed in auto crash,” Manitoba Free Press, 3 October 1929, page 3.
“Coffee party held for Dawn Campbell,” Winnipeg Free Press, 14 December 1950, page 11.
“Former lieutenant-governor ‘made his mark’,” Winnipeg Free Press, 25 August 2007, page A5.
Obituary, Winnipeg Free Press, 25 August 2007, page 44.
Obituary [Dawn Rue’Ann Campbell McKeag], Winnipeg Free Press, 28 March 2015.
Obituaries and burial transcriptions, Manitoba Genealogical Society.
We thank Oliver Bernuetz (Legislative Library of Manitoba) for providing additional information used here.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 25 April 2021