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Sir James Mitchell 1948-1951

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James Mitchell

Sir James Mitchell was the first Australian-born Governor of WA.

He was born in 1866 at Dardanup on Paradise Farm, near Bunbury, the son of a grazier. In 1905, he resigned as a manager with the Western Australian Bank in Northam after being elected to the Legislative Assembly. He held a number of portfolios while in government including Agriculture, Lands, Industries, Railways and Water Supply.

He was Premier, Treasurer and Minister for Lands and Repatriation from 1919 to 1924. His premiership is remembered as a time when he fostered an expansion of the wheatbelt, development of the diary industry and group settlements in the south west of the State. He served a second term as Premier in 1930. He campaigned vigorously in favour of WA seceding from the Australian Federation in 1933 but he lost his long-held seat of Northam in the same year to a Labor candidate, Albert Hawke, an uncle of former Prime Minister, Bob Hawke.

Sir James was subsequently appointed Lieutenant-Governor, a position he held for 14 years until 1948 when he was finally appointed Governor. Interestingly, Sir James actually served as Governor for 18 years because no Governor was appointed over him after his appointment as Lieutenant-Governor in 1933.

In both positions he was known to walk down St Georges Terrace carrying his stick in his left hand and patting children on their heads with his right hand. Sir James was said to be very democratic and friendly to all, and a man "who could walk with Kings nor lose his common touch". One government Minister said: "To live and work with Sir James was a stimulating and demanding experience, his undaunting faith in his native State made him loved by people of all ages and state."

He retired as Governor in June, 1951 at age 85, but died suddenly in his sleep a month later in a Railway Department Vice-Regal coach near Donnybrook, in the south west of the State after visiting his son Roy.

Reviewed 2012 - 2013

 

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