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The Honourable John Brownlee, 1925 - 1934

The Hon. John BrownleeJohn E. Brownlee was the dominant figure in the United Farmers of Alberta Government during its fourteen years of power.  His greatest accomplishment as Premier was negotiating the transfer of the ownership of Alberta's natural resources from the federal to the provincial government.

John Edward Brownlee was born on August 27, 1884, at Port Ryerse, Norfolk County, Ontario.  He was the son of William James Brownlee, a general merchant, and Christina Shaw.  In 1890, his family moved to Bradshaw, Ontario.  John E. Brownlee was a Methodist.

John E. BrownleeHe attended public school in Port Ryerse and Bradshaw and graduated  from the Sarnia Collegiate Institute with a Junior Matriculation.  He then attended the Sarnia Model (teacher training) School and taught public school at Bradshaw during 1902-1903.  Afterward, he attended Victoria College at the University of Toronto and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1908.

In 1909, he secured a position with the Calgary law firm of Lougheed, Bennett, Allison, and McLaws.  Later, he transferred his articles to the firm of Muir, Jephson, and Adams and, after three years of study, was admitted to the Alberta Bar in 1912.

Florence Agnes EdyOn December 23, 1912, he married Florence Agnes Edy,  daughter of James N. Edy of Toronto, Ontario.  They had two children: John Edy and Alan Marshall.

After John E. Brownlee was admitted to the Alberta Bar, he continued to work for the firm Muir, Jephson, and Adams, eventually becoming a junior partner in 1914.  During his early years of practice, he did a considerable amount of legal work for the Alberta Farmer's Co-operative Elevator Company Limited in 1917.  In 1919, he became the General Solicitor for the U.G.G. and the General Manger of U.G.G. Securities Company Limited.  As  well, he was legal counsel to the United Farmers of Alberta and played a prominent part in the organization of the Alberta Wheat Pool.

Directors, United Grain Growers LimitedAt the provincial election of 1921, John E. Brownlee was not a candidate.  However, following that election, he was asked to serve as Attorney-General in the new United Farmers of Alberta Government.  At a by-election on December 9, 1921, he was elected, by acclamation, the Member for the electoral district of Ponoka.  The former Member for Ponoka, Percival Baker, had been killed in an accident.  Following the resignation of Premier Greenfield, John E. Brownlee was appointed Premier of Alberta by Lieutenant-Governor Dr. William Egbert effective November 23, 1925.  As well as serving as President of Executive Council , John E. Brownlee was also Attorney-General (1926) and Provincial Secretary (1926-34).  He was reelected in 1926 and again, by acclamation, in 1930.

Premier Brownlee's first government (1925-30) succeeded in passing drought relief legislation and in 1928, sold the financially burdensome Alberta and Great Waterways Railway and Edmonton, Dunvegan, and British Columbia John E. Brownlee and Cabinet Railway.  In 1929, he successfully negotiated the long-sought transfer of the control of Alberta's natural resources from the federal to the provincial government.  This transfer took effect in 1930.  And, in 1933, he served on the Royal Commission on Banking and Currency.  However, during the latter part of his second administration (1930-34), the U.F.A. Government was perceived as not dealing effectively with the problems created by the Great Economic Depression which had begun in 1929.  Following a civil suit which was brought against him in 1933, John E. Brownlee resigned as Premier effective July 10, 1934.  He then continued to serve in the Alberta Legislature as a Private Member until he was defeated at the general election of August 22, 1935.

John E. Brownlee, 1944After he left politics, John E. Brownlee returned to the practice of law in Edmonton.  Within a year, he was Legal Counsel for the United Grain Growers once again and, in 1948, he was appointed President and General Manager of the same firm.  He served in that capacity until 1961.  During the 1950s, he negotiated the Second and Third International Wheat Agreements, which were concerned with the stabilization of price and supply.

John E. Brownlee was appointed King's Counsel in 1922.  He served as Secretary of the Victoria College Alumni Association; a member of the executive of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture; John E. Brownlee and one of the original members of the National Productivity Council, which was the forerunner of the Economic Council of Canada; and he was an Honorary Life Member of the United Farmers of Alberta.  He was also a member of the Ancient, Free, and Accepted Masons; the Kiwanis Club; the Edmonton Golf and Country Club; and the St. Andrew's Golf and Country Club in Calgary.  In 1960, he was made a member of the Order of the Buffalo Hunt by Duff Roblin, Premier of Manitoba.

John E. Brownlee died on July 15, 1961, at Calgary, Alberta, and was buried in the Evergreen Memorial Gardens northeast of Edmonton.  A provincial government building in Edmonton is named in his memory.

 

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Reprinted from Premiers of the Northwest Territories and Alberta 1897-1991 with the kind permission of the Legislative Assembly Office.



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