The Honourable William L. Walsh was a lawyer by profession and had a
strong interest in public affairs. As well as serving as Alberta's Lieutenant-Governor, he was the first President of the Conservative Association of the
Province of Alberta.
William Legh Walsh was born on January 28, 1857, at Simcoe, Canada West
(Ontario). He was the son of Aquila Walsh and Jane Adams Wilson. His father
was a Member of the Legislative Assembly of Upper (Ontario) and Lower (Quebec)
Canada and was the first Member of Parliament for the electoral district of
Norfolk North, Ontario, in 1867. William L. Walsh was a member of the Church
of England (Anglican).
After attending public and high school in Simcoe, Ontario, William L. Walsh
studied at the University of Toronto and Osgoode Hall. He was called to the
Ontario Bar in 1880. On November 17, 1883, he married Bessie McVittie of Barrie, Ontario. They
had two children: Marguerite Claire and Legh A. Following the death of his first
wife, he married Bertha M. Barber, daughter of George Cassady of Vancouver,
British Columbia, on April 22, 1931.
After attending Osgoode Hall, William L. Walsh was associated with the firm
of D 'Alton McCarthy in Orangeville, Ontario. He was the unsuccessful
Conservative candidate for the Ontario constituency of Cardwell at the federal
general election of 1896. He came west in 1900 and was called to the Yukon Bar
that year, establishing a law practice at Dawson in the Yukon during the gold rush.
He was named King's Counsel in 1903 and was called to the
Bar in 1904. In 1904, he was a candidate for the Mayor of Dawson, Yukon
Territory, but was defeated. He settled in Calgary later the same year. While
practicing law in Calgary, he was associated with the firm of Walsh, McCarthy,
and Carson. This firm evolved into the present-day firm of MacLeod Dixon.
William L. Walsh was the first President of the Conservative Association of
Alberta and ran unsuccessfully for that party at a provincial
byelection in 1906. In
1909, he was appointed as one of the two Counsels to the Royal Commission
investigating whether any officers of the government or any Members of the
Legislative Assembly of Alberta had had dealings with the Alberta and Great
Waterways Railway Company.
William L. Walsh was a Conservative organizer in
the 1911 federal election which saw the defeat of Prime Minister Sir Wilfred
Laurier and the election of Robert Borden. He was appointed a judge of the
Supreme Court of Alberta in 1912 and left the Bench in 1931 to serve as
On the advice of Prime Minister R.B. Bennett, William L. Walsh was
appointed Lieutenant-Governor of Alberta effective May 5, 1931. This appointment
was made by the Earl of Bessborough, Governor General of Canada.
The Honourable William L. Walsh's tenure as Lieutenant-Governor is associated with a minor constitutional problem that was precipitated by the resignation of Premier John E. Brownlee in July, 1934. When he resigned, Premier Brownlee
did not name a successor. The Government Caucus chose Richard G. Reid. The
Lieutenant-Governor refused to accept this choice until Richard G. Reid was able
to prove his ability by forming a Cabinet.
The Honourable William L. Walsh served as
Lieutenant- Governor until his successor was appointed effective October 1, 1936.
William L. Walsh was an Honorary Chief ("Sitting Eagle") of the Blood
Indians (1931), received an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the University of
Alberta (1932), was an Honorary Colonel of the University of Alberta Detachment
of the Canadian Officer Training Corps, was an Honorary Bencher of the Law
Society of Alberta, and was a Knight of Grace of the Most Venerable Order of the
Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem. He was also a member of the Calgary Ranchmen's Club and the Calgary Golf and Country Club. An avid golfer, William L.
Walsh founded a seniors' golf tournament which bears his name and is conducted
to this day alternately in the cities of Calgary and Edmonton.
He died on January 13, 1938, at Victoria, British
Columbia, and was buried in the Union Cemetery at Calgary, Alberta.