Memorable Manitobans: J. Frank Syms (c1924-1992)
Journalist, politician, administrator.
Born in Nova Scotia around 1924, son of Anastasia Cooke, during the Second World War he served in Europe with the Canadian Infantry Brigade. Educated at St. Francis Xavier University and Carleton University, in the 1950s he worked for ten years in the news departments of the Ottawa Citizen, Port Arthur News-Chronicle, and Winnipeg Tribune before spending ten years as public relations director for the Red River Co-operative. In 1969, he was editor of the Western Jewish News weekly newspaper and was elected President of the New Democratic Party, serving for just a few months.
He was a New Democratic candidate in the 1963 and 1979 federal general elections. He left the party in the 1980s and ran as a Progressive Conservative in the 1988 provincial general election. In 1989, he ran for Mayor of Winnipeg against incumbent Bill Norrie. He served as Chairman of the Manitoba Liquor Control Commission (1970-1977) and a member of the Manitoba Liquor Licensing Board. He managed the Canadian Arctic Federation and, in 1989, retired from a position with the Native Economic Development Program.
He and wife Heather May Evelyn McLean (1926-2005) had four children, including Francis Edwin Syms (1949-1959), before separating. The family lived at 697 McPhillips Street, Winnipeg. He was founding chairman of the Holy Redeemer Parish (North Kildonan) and founding President of the Borealis Co-op Housing (Yellowknife).
He died at Winnipeg on 25 February 1992.
“Weekend auto toll claims five lives,” Winnipeg Tribune, 5 October 1959, page 15.
“Syms liquor chief,” Winnipeg Free Press, 27 November 1969, page 1.
“New liquor boss quits as NDP chief,” Winnipeg Free Press, 3 December 1969, page 1.
“Syms, out after eight years, says he's not angry or bitter,” Winnipeg Free Press, 31 December 1977, page 167.
Obituary, Winnipeg Free Press, 29 February 1992, page 54.
Obituaries and burial transcriptions, Manitoba Genealogical Society.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 10 October 2023