William Ross Macdonald

William Ross Macdonald, PC OC CD QC (December 25, 1891 May 28, 1976), served as the 21st Lieutenant Governor of Ontario from 1968 to 1974, and as Speaker of the House of Commons of Canada from 1949 to 1953.

William Ross Macdonald

21st Lieutenant Governor of Ontario
In office
July 4, 1968  April 10, 1974
MonarchElizabeth II
Governor GeneralRoland Michener
Jules Léger
PremierJohn Robarts
Bill Davis
Preceded byWilliam Earl Rowe
Succeeded byPauline Mills McGibbon
Leader of the Government in the Senate
In office
April 22, 1963  February 2, 1964
Prime MinisterLester B. Pearson
Preceded byAlfred Johnson Brooks
Succeeded byJohn Joseph Connolly
In office
October 14, 1953  June 20, 1957
Prime MinisterLouis St. Laurent
Preceded byWishart McLea Robertson
Succeeded byJohn Thomas Haig
Leader of the Opposition in the Senate
In office
June 20, 1957  April 22, 1963
Preceded byJohn Thomas Haig
Succeeded byAlfred Johnson Brooks
18th Solicitor General of Canada
In office
January 12, 1954  June 20, 1957
Prime MinisterLouis St. Laurent
Preceded byRalph Campney
Succeeded byLéon Balcer
Senator for Brantford, Ontario
In office
June 12, 1953  December 22, 1967
Appointed byLouis St. Laurent
22nd Speaker of the House of Commons
In office
September 15, 1949  June 11, 1953
MonarchGeorge VI
Elizabeth II
Governor GeneralThe Viscount Alexander of Tunis
Georges Vanier
Prime MinisterLouis St. Laurent
Preceded byGaspard Fauteux
Succeeded byLouis-René Beaudoin
Member of Parliament
Member of Parliament
for Brantford
In office
October 14, 1935  June 27, 1949
Preceded byRobert Edwy Ryerson
Succeeded byconstituency abolished
Member of Parliament
for Brantford City
In office
June 27, 1949  August 10, 1953
Preceded bynew constituency
Succeeded byJames Elisha Brown
Personal details
Born(1891-12-25)December 25, 1891
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
DiedMay 28, 1976(1976-05-28) (aged 84)
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Political partyLiberal
Alma mater
Military service
Branch/serviceCanadian Expeditionary Force
Battles/warsFirst World War

Early life

Macdonald was born in Toronto, Ontario, to a dry goods merchant who had immigrated from Scotland. He went on to study law at the University of Toronto and the Osgoode Hall Law School. Upon completion, he practised law in Brantford, Ontario, and served with the 2nd Cycle Corps and 4th Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force in the First World War.

In 1921, Macdonald married Muriel Whittaker.

Political career

Macdonald sought Liberal Party nomination to run for election to the House of Commons of Canada for the 1926 election, but lost the nomination by a single vote. He won the nomination for the Brantford riding in the next election, but lost the election. Macdonald was elected in the 1935 election. He served as Member of Parliament (MP) until 1953.

During World War II, Macdonald was a staunch supporter of conscription. His position is made clear in this wartime quote taken from a Canadian newspaper, "There is a victory to be won and that can be accomplished only by every Canadian taking part." After the war, he served as Deputy Speaker (1945–1949) and then as Speaker of the House of Commons (1949–1953).

While serving as Speaker of the House of Commons Macdonald made a famous ruling, banning musical instruments from being played in the Chamber, on June 3, 1950. The ban came about after Daniel McIvor MP for Fort William played a flute while waiting for a vote call.[1]

In 1953, Governor General Vincent Massey, on the advice of Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent, appointed Macdonald to the Senate of Canada, where he became Leader of the Government in the Canadian Senate and a minister without portfolio in the Canadian Cabinet. From 1954 until the Liberal government's defeat in the 1957 election, Macdonald served as Solicitor General of Canada.

With the defeat of the Liberals, he became Leader of the Opposition in the Canadian Senate, and served again as Government Leader when the Liberals returned to power in 1963. He retired from the Cabinet in 1964. From 1964 to 1972, he was the second Chancellor of Waterloo Lutheran University.[2]

Governor General Roland Michener, on the advice of Lester Pearson, appointed Macdonald to serve as Lieutenant Governor from 1968 to 1974. In this role, he was involved with many service groups, such as the Canadian Order of Foresters and the Kiwanis Club.

In 1974, he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada.[3] The Ontario School for the Blind in Brantford was renamed the W. Ross Macdonald School in his honour.

He died in Toronto in 1976.


William Macdonald was a devoted Freemason initiated on March 17, 1917 at the Doric Lodge No. 121 in Brantford, Ontario.


  1. "Bag Pipes And Tin Horns Under Ban in Commons". The Lethbridge Herald. XLIII (146). June 3, 1950. p. 1.
  2. "Chancellors from 1961 to present". Wilfrid Laurier University. Archived from the original on March 28, 2007.
  3. Order of Canada citation
Political offices
Preceded by
Ralph Osborne Campney
Solicitor General of Canada
Succeeded by
Léon Balcer
Government offices
Preceded by
Wishart McLea Robertson
Leader of the Government in the Senate of Canada
Succeeded by
John Thomas Haig
Preceded by
John Thomas Haig
Leader of the Opposition in the Senate of Canada
Succeeded by
Alfred Johnson Brooks
Preceded by
Alfred Johnson Brooks
Leader of the Government in the Senate of Canada
Succeeded by
John Joseph Connolly
Academic offices
Preceded by
William Daum Euler
Chancellor of Waterloo Lutheran University
Succeeded by
Paul Joseph Martin
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