Memorable Manitobans: William McGillivray Rait (c1891-1973)
Grain merchant, community activist.
Born at Glasgow, Scotland around 1891, he came to Winnipeg in 1910 and soon afterward became employed by James Richardson and Sons. In 1922, he became General Manager of the Pioneer Grain Company, rising to the positions of President (1939) and Chairman (1964). He oversaw the transformation of the company into the largest privately owned grain company in Western Canada and, in the early 1930s, led the reorganization of the Grain Insurance and Guarantee Company, serving as its President from 1940 to 1968. By 1964, he was also President of the Eastern Terminal Elevator Company (later Richardson Terminals Limited) and Grain Insurance Brokers, Vice-President and Director of Westland Elevators Limited, Buckerfield’s Limited, Burrard Terminals Limited, and Pacific Elevators Limited. He was also a Director of Green Valley Fertilizer and Chemical, and Executive Chairman and Director of the North West Line Elevator Association. He was a member of the Winnipeg Grain Exchange for almost 50 years and was given lifetime membership in 1971. He retired from Pioneer Grain in 1964 but remained Chairman of the Board, being appointed Honorary Chairman in 1969.
Active in the community, he served on the Board of Governors for the Winnipeg Art Gallery, was a founding Director of the Manitoba Heart Foundation and Manitoba Centennial Corporation, and helped to develop the library and research capabilties at the Winnipeg General Hospital. He served as Chairman of the Manitoba Forestry Association for several years, for which he was inducted into the Manitoba Order of the Buffalo Hunt (1960). He was a member of the Manitoba Club and St. Charles Country Club.
He died at Sarasota, Florida on 12 March 1973 and was buried in the Old Kildonan Cemetery, survived by a widow and two daughters. His honorary pallbearers were Herbert Adamson, William G. Colquhoun, Bruce Gillespie, Dr. Frank Greaney, Donavon J. Knight, Cecil Lamont, Gordon Lawson, A. S. Leach, R. S. Malone, George T. Richardson, James A. Richardson, N. Elliot Rodger, J. B. Rogan, and Jack Timmerman.
“Again heads forestry association,” Winnipeg Free Press, 8 March 1960, page 18.
“These Manitobans will help plan centennial,” Winnipeg Free Press, 13 September 1963, page 9.
“Jottings from the business world,” Winnipeg Free Press, 12 September 1964, page 60.
Obituary, Winnipeg Free Press, 14 March 1973, page 42.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 21 January 2018
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