Riddell, William Renwick

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Riddell, William Renwick

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William Renwick Riddell was born in Hamilton Township on April 6, 1852. He attended Cobourg Grammar School and then Victoria College where he earned his BA in 1874, his BSc in 1877 and his LLB in 1878. He won the Law Society of Upper Canada's gold medal and was called to the bar in 1883. He opened his own practice in Cobourg until 1893 when he moved to Toronto. In 1891 he was elected a bencher of the Law Society and named Queen's Counsel in 1899. In 1906 he was appointed to the bench of the Supreme Court of Ontario, and was promoted to the appeal division in 1925. He left his greatest mark as a Canadian historian and publicist. He published some 1258 articles, reviews, lectures, pamphlets and books in the fields of legal, constitutional, medical and social history. A life-long student who mastered 8 languages, Riddell was a meticulous researcher and engaging writer with a penchant for copious footnoting. His major works include biographies of William Kirby and John Graves Simcoe and The Bar and the Courts of the Province of Upper Canada or Ontario (1928). He was also the recipient of 12 honorary degrees. In his final years, he unsuccessfully lobbied Liberal Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King for a chief justiceship, an Imperial Privy Councillorship and a knighthood. When Riddell died in his 93rd year, he was still serving on the bench and publishing articles. He died on February 18, 1945.


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