CBC Digital Archives

Mackenzie King dies at 75

With his cautious policies and shrewd political skills, he successfully led Canada for almost 22 years. But behind closed doors, he held secret séances and had frequent conversations with his dead mother. As Canada's longest-serving prime minister, William Lyon Mackenzie King's public persona was staid and serious. After his death in 1950, however, his fascinating private life slowly came to light.

William Lyon Mackenzie King has died at the age of 75. Several days after his death, Blair Fraser, Ottawa editor of Maclean's magazine, sensitively describes the contradictory nature of King's personality in this CBC Radio commentary. "In public he was cold and remote; a little inhuman," says Fraser. "But face to face, he could make you feel like you were the one person in Canada he really wanted to see."
. On July 22, 1950, King died of pneumonia at his summer home in Kingsmere, Que., surrounded by friends. He was 75 years old.
. King is buried at Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Toronto. This is the same cemetery where his mother is buried.

. Many journalists and colleagues of King have commented on the dual nature of his personality. Journalist Bruce Hutchison has said that King was very discreet in political settings, but could be quite indiscreet with information in a one-on-one situation. And Lester B. Pearson once said that although King was frequently very closed and formal, he was "most gracious and himself when he didn't want to go to sleep". He often wanted to stay up and chat well into the night, according to Pearson.

. Upon King's death, tributes to his long and successful career came from a variety of world leaders. For example, U.S. President Harry Truman stated: "His tenure as prime minister of Canada, exceeding 21 years, was as distinguished as it was extended. He brought his country to a new stature of greatness. His passing marks the close of an epoch in the life of our neighbour to the north."

. Canada's provincial premiers also had high praise for King after his death, with many calling him a great nation-builder. The premier of New Brunswick, J.B. McNair, said King was the greatest Canadian of his generation: "Throughout a long life crowded with achievements, he devoted himself entirely to advancing their welfare. Many of the great social reforms which are now part and parcel of our way of life were the product of his advanced thinking and humanitarian instincts."
Medium: Radio
Program: CBC Radio News
Broadcast Date: July 25, 1950
Commentator: Blair Fraser
Duration: 2:23
Photo: National Archives of Canada

Last updated: February 28, 2012

Page consulted on December 6, 2013

All Clips from this Topic

Related Content

John Diefenbaker: extra clips

His eyes blazing and his finger stabbing the air, John George Diefenbaker set 1950s Canada ali...

Pierre Elliott Trudeau: Philosopher and Prime...

He slid down banisters, dated movie stars and wore a red rose in his lapel. Pierre Elliott Tru...

Brian Mulroney: The Negotiator

In 1984, Brian Mulroney led the federal Conservatives to the biggest election victory in Canad...

John Diefenbaker: Dief the Chief

His eyes blazing and his finger stabbing the air, John George Diefenbaker set 1950s Canada ali...

Sir John A. Macdonald: Architect of Modern Ca...

Sir John A. Macdonald has been described as a pragmatic statesman, earning the title of Old Ch...