The Honourable John C. Bowen was the only clergyman who ever held this
position of Lieutenant-Governor of Alberta. He also served longer than any of
John Campbell Bowen was born on October 3, 1872, at
Township, Ontario, and he grew up in Ottawa, Ontario. He was the son of Pete
Bowen and Margaret Poaps. As well as attending public schools in Ontario, John C. Bowen studied at
Brandon College, in Brandon, Manitoba, and McMaster University, in Hamilton Ontario.
On October 25, 1906, he married Edith Oliver, daughter of Reverend George
Leslie Oliver and Margaret McIntyre Oliver, at St. Mary's, Ontario. John C.
Bowen and his wife had two daughters: Margaret Gwendolyn and Emma Ruth.
John C. Bowen's first experience in western Canada was as a student harvester
in southern Alberta. Later, when he completed his theological training, he held
Baptist church pastorates in Dauphin, Manitoba; Broadway Baptist Church in
Winnipeg, Manitoba; and Strathcona Baptist Church in Edmonton, Alberta; before
becoming Secretary of the Board of Education, Baptist Union of Western Canada.
He resigned from this position after one year because of ill health. Returning to
Edmonton in 1912, he went into the life insurance business with Mutual Life
Assurance of Canada.
In response to the Great War, John C. Bowen went overseas from Edmonton
in October, 1915, as Chaplain of the Sixty-third Battalion of the Canadian
Expeditionary Force. In England, he was transferred to the Fourteenth Artillery
Brigade and served in France for two years with the rank of Captain, returning to
Edmonton in July, 1918. After experiencing some ill health resulting from his war
service, he reentered the insurance business.
John C. Bowen was a member of the Edmonton Exhibition Board (1921-26)
and was also Chairman of Edmonton's Board of Public Welfare and Board of
Health. He was elected City Alderman in 1920. He was also a candidate for Mayor
of Edmonton in 1928, but was defeated. In 1921, John C. Bowen was elected as
one of the five candidates for the multi-Member Edmonton electoral district of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta. He was appointed Liberal House Leader on
March 15, 1926. At the general election of June 28, 1926, however, he was defeated
and he was also unsuccessful at a byelection for Edmonton held on January 9,
On the advice of Prime Minister William Lyon
Mackenzie King, John C. Bowen was appointed Lieutenant-Governor of Alberta effective March 23, 1937.
This appointment was made by Lord Tweedsmuir, Governor General of Canada.
During his term as Lieutenant-Governor, a great deal of John C. Bowen's
work related to the conduct of World War II. He helped promote the sale of war
bonds, visited military units posted in Alberta, and liaised with the United States
Army in Edmonton and in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, during the construction
of the Alaska Highway. As well, he became entangled in a serious constitutional dispute when he refused to give Royal Assent to three bills passed by the Alberta
Legislature in 1937. Two of the bills would have put banks under the authority of
the provincial government. The third, the Accurate News and Information Act,
would have forced newspapers to print government rebuttals to stories the Cabinet
deemed misleading. All three bills were later declared unconstitutional by the
Supreme Court of Canada and the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council at
John C. Bowen was reappointed Lieutenant-Governor for a
second term and continued to serve in that capacity until his successor was appointed effective February 1,1950.
John C. Bowen was a member of the Northern Alberta Pioneers and
Descendants Association and served on the Board of Brandon College, which later
became Brandon University. He was an Honorary Colonel of the Canadian Officer
Training Corps and a Knight of Grace of the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem (1948). He was presented with the United States Medal
of Freedom with Silver Palm for meritorious services performed for the United
States Armed Forces stationed in western Canada from 1943 to 1945 and he
received an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree (1939) from the University of
John C. Bowen died on January 2, 1957, at Edmonton, Alberta, and was
buried in the Edmonton Cemetery.