John B. McNair

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John B. McNair : biography

November 20, 1889 – June 14, 1968

Governing the province during the war years and through harsh economic times, McNair is credited with introducing a succession of budgetary surpluses, undertaking a massive rural electrification program, improving education in rural areas, expanding the role of the civil service, centralizing the provincial government offices and New Brunswick Electric Power Commission in Fredericton. Following the war, he introduced a variety of social benefit programs, began the modernization of the highway system, and created a Department of Industry and Reconstruction to ensure a smooth economic and social transition for the province from wartime to peacetime.

He was also instrumental in modernizing politics. For the August 1944 general election, McNair became the first politician in Canada to employ the services of a professional advertising agency to direct a political campaign. Following this tremendously successful campaign, the Liberals won all but five seats in the Legislature. After a similar election campaign in June 1948, McNair’s Liberals were returned to office with a similar majority. McNair continued as premier until his party’s defeat at the polls in 1952.

McNair then returned to his Fredericton law practice. In July 1955 he was appointed a Justice in Appeal, Supreme Court of New Brunswick. In October 1955 he was appointed Chief Justice in Appeal, Supreme Court of New Brunswick. He retired from the bench in 1964 on account of age. During his career after politics, McNair was also a member of the Senate for the University of New Brunswick, Chairman of the Selection Committee for the Awarding of the Beaverbrook Scholarships, and a member of the Beaverbrook Art Gallery Board.

In June 1965, at age 76, McNair was appointed Lieutenant-Governor of New Brunswick. He held this position until January 31, 1968 when illness forced him to resign. He died six months later on June 14, 1968.

McNair married Mary MacGregor Crocket on May 17, 1921, and they had three daughters and one son. Not long after McNair assumed the premiership, his wife’s health deteriorated in an alarming fashion and she spent much of her time in hospitals. Therefore, in addition to assuming the responsibility for the affairs of the province, McNair also shouldered the heavy responsibility of raising four children. Following the death of his first wife in 1961, McNair married Margaret Jones on April 27, 1963.

Among the many awards the Hon. John B. McNair received in his life were an honorary L.L.D. from the University of New Brunswick in 1938 and an honorary D.C.L. from Mount Allison University in 1951. He was designated a Companion of the Order of Canada on July 6, 1967, but the award had to be presented posthumously as the scheduled ceremony did not take place until September 23, 1968.