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Memorable Manitobans: Harold James Riley (1887-1975)

Lawyer, soldier.

Born in Winnipeg on 29 November 1887, youngest son of Robert Thomas Riley and Harriet Murgatroyd (1844-1902), he was educated at Mulvey School and was active in football, hockey, and rowing. He received a BSc degree in mechanical engineering at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute (Worcester, Massachusetts) followed by a law degree from the University of Manitoba. He was called to the Manitoba Bar in 1914. He practiced law with the firm of Fillmore and Riley. He was made a King’s Counsel in 1932.

In the First World War he served in France as a Lieutenant Colonel and Battalion Commander with the 27th City of Winnipeg Battalion, was awarded the DSO three times, was mentioned in despatches four times, and was severely wounded in April 1916. At the outbreak of the Second World War, he was appointed a Brigadier-General in Military District No. 10 and, in 1942, he became Director of National Selective Service as a Major-General at Ottawa.

In 1921, he married Ruth McDonald Moore (?-?) of Denver, Colorado. They had four children: Harold James Riley Jr. (1922-?, husband of Helen Palk, daughter of L. Palk), Ruth Murgatroyd Riley (1923-?, wife of James MacLean Dowler), Thomas McDonald Riley (1925-?), and John Moore Riley (1929-?). He served as a President of the Manitoba Bar Association and the Canadian Club of Winnipeg, and Chairman of the Red Cross Campaign and the Winnipeg Flood Relief Committee of 1950. He was a citizen member of the Winnipeg Police Commission and a member of the Bracken Royal Commission. He was chairman of the Manitoba Royal Commission on Medical Education and honorary President of the Crescentwood-River Heights Branch of the Royal Canadian Legion, the Canukeena Club, an honorary Life Governor of the Corps of Commissionaires, and honorary Patron of the United Services Institute, and a honorary Life Member of the Manitoba Club. He was a member of the Winnipeg Squash Racquet Club (President, 1925-1926). For meritorious community service, he was given a Manitoba Golden Boy Award (1962) and a Manitoba Centennial Medal (1970).

He died after a long illness at his Winnipeg residence, 1802-323 Wellington Crescent, on 7 July 1975.


Birth registration, Manitoba Vital Statistics.

“Short-lived rejoicing follows fire in second school” by Claire Tisdale, Winnipeg Free Press, 28 January 1949.

Obituary, Winnipeg Free Press, 9 July 1975, page 38.

R. T. Riley, c1947. “Memoirs”. Manitoba Legislative Library, CT-1, Riley R, 119 pages.

We thank James Arnett and Joe Martin for providing additional information used here.

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 30 May 2019

Memorable Manitobans

Memorable Manitobans

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