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JAMESON, RICHARD WILLIS, lawyer, teacher, land speculator, office holder, and politician; b. 12 July 1851 in Cape Town (Republic of South Africa), son of George Inglis Jameson; d. 21 Feb. 1899 in Winnipeg.
Richard Willis Jameson began his education in 1857 at Blackheath Proprietary School, London, England. He later attended King’s College, London, and in the early 1870s, Trinity College, Cambridge, from which he graduated ba. During 1876 he was called to the English bar but chose instead to practise law in Canada, articling with the Toronto firm Rose, Macdonald, and Merritt. Admission to the Ontario bar followed in 1877, and he joined the firm of Morrison, Wells, and Gordon. Jameson then became associated with Frank Staynor Nugent, with whom he would later form a partnership in Manitoba.
In the early 1880s western Canada experienced a great railway, real estate, and settlement boom which attracted many land speculators. Jameson arrived in Winnipeg in February 1881 and married Ann Elizabeth Thurman of that city on 1 May. In addition to engaging in speculation, he taught mathematics at Manitoba College. After the collapse of the boom in the spring of 1882, he articled with the firm of Monkman and Dingman and was admitted to the Manitoba bar that June. Later he became partner in the firm of Monkman, Jameson, and Morrow. During the remainder of the 1880s potentially valuable lands were available for a fraction of their worth in the post-boom depression. Besides acting as an agent for English investors, Jameson built up considerable personal holdings in real estate. A nervous man, he was constantly anxious about his properties and his legal practice. In 1890 he retired from law to concentrate on his financial investments and to turn to public office.
Jameson became a provincial liquor licence commissioner in 1890 and acted as chairman of the board of licence commissioners from that year until 1896. Elected alderman in 1892, he served as chairman of the municipal council’s legislative committee in that year, chairman of the sinking-fund in 1895, and mayor of Winnipeg in 1896–97. He successfully contested a federal by-election for Winnipeg on 27 April 1897 and held the seat as a Liberal until his sudden death two years later.
In December 1898, in poor health, Jameson had journeyed to Hot Springs, Ark. He recovered and returned home. On 21 Feb. 1899 he prepared for the parliamentary session, gave a speech to the Winnipeg Board of Trade, and went home. After dining with his family, he shot himself. Though Jameson may have committed suicide, a subsequent investigation ruled that his death was accidental. His wife, Elizabeth, assumed the management of her husband’s affairs. Their two sons, who became lawyers in Winnipeg, would be killed while serving in World War I.
One of Winnipeg’s wealthiest citizens, Richard Willis Jameson was an example of a land speculator who was able to make a success from the ruins of the great boom of 1881–82. According to contemporary accounts, he was appreciated by the public, as both a lawyer and a politician, because of his good manners and keen wit. He was considered well read and was an accomplished public speaker. As a result, his funeral was well attended, a demonstration of Winnipeggers’ respect.
Manitoba Free Press, 22–23 Feb. 1899, 25 Aug. 1916. Winnipeg Daily Sun, 24 Dec. 1883. Winnipeg Daily Tribune, 22 Feb. 1899. Winnipeg Telegram, 22 Feb. 1899. Canadian directory of parl. (Johnson). CPC, 1898. Schofield, Story of Man.