Manitoba Historical Society
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Memorable Manitobans: William “Bill” Norrie (1929-2012)

Lawyer, municipal official, Mayor of Winnipeg (1979-1992).

Born at St. Boniface in 1929, the younger of the two children of William and Mary Rae Norrie, he attended Daniel McIntyre Collegiate, received an Arts degree from United College (now the University of Winnipeg) then enrolled in the Manitoba Law School, serving as President of the Students’ Union (1951). While a student in Law he was awarded a Rhodes scholarship. On his return from Oxford, he received his Bachelor of Laws degree and established a private law practice. He served as a Bencher for the Law Society of Manitoba from 1973 to 1975 and was made a Queen's Counsel in 1978.

Defeated in the 1959 provincial general election, in 1962 he was elected to the Winnipeg School Board where he played a leading part in developing the concept of joint use agreements and in the campaign to reduce the size of the school board. In 1971 he was elected to the first Unicity council; in 1977 he was elected by his colleagues as Deputy Mayor and, in 1979, became Acting Mayor on the death of Mayor Robert Steen. Confirmed as Mayor in a subsequent by-election, he was re-elected four times and served until 1992. Through his unique Winnipeg Core Area Initiative for urban redevelopment, he made a significant contribution to rejuvenating the city’s older sections. He was instrumental in the creation of the North Portage and Forks Redevelopment corporations, and he was active in improvements made to city libraries.

In 1955, he married Helen Scurfield (daughter of Jack Milburn Scurfield) and they had three sons. He served as Chancellor of the University of Manitoba (2001-2009) and was a member of the Advisory Board of The Winnipeg Foundation (1979-2005). He was Chairman of the St. Boniface Hospital Research Foundation and Honorary Consul General of Japan in Winnipeg.

He was given honorary doctorates by the University of Winnipeg (1981) and University of Manitoba (1993). He was inducted into the Order of Canada (1994), Winnipeg Citizens Hall of Fame (1995), and Order of Manitoba (2000). He received the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal (2002) and the Presidents Award from the Winnipeg Press Club.

He died at Winnipeg on 6 July 2012 and was buried in the Elmwood Cemetery.


“12 lawyers receive QC titles,” Winnipeg Free Press, 31 December 1977, page 160.

Honorary degree citation, University of Manitoba.

Order of Manitoba citation, Lieutenant-Governor of Manitoba.

Obituary, Winnipeg Free Press, 7 July 2012.

We thank Wendy Hart of the Winnipeg Press Club for providing additional information used here.

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 20 June 2020

Memorable Manitobans

Memorable Manitobans

This is a collection of noteworthy Manitobans from the past, compiled by the Manitoba Historical Society. We acknowledge that the collection contains both reputable and disreputable people. All are worth remembering as a lesson to future generations.

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