The Right Honourable Lieutenant Colonel (Charles) Vincent Massey, PC, CH, CC, CD, FRSC(Hon) was born in Toronto in 1887. His ancestors originated in Knutsford, County Cheshire, England emigrating to Salem, Massachusetts, USA in the late 1620’s. After several moves the family made a final one from New York State to Upper Canada in 1800, settling in Toronto. He attended St. Andrew’s College where he was the first Cadet Commanding Officer of the newly formed #142 Highland Cadet Corps in 1906.
Massey enlisted in The Queen’s Own in 1907. As a Lieutenant he travelled to Aldershot, England in 1910 with the Regiment when it participated in maneuvers in with the British Army during the 1910 Trip. The story goes that in August 1914 while touring France with his brother he cabled The QOR and volunteered for active service, but received no reply.
For two years he taught history at the University of Toronto where he was an instructor officer for the school’s Canadian Officer Training Corps, before serving as secretary of the government’s cabinet war committee from 1915 to 1918 during which time he had been promoted to Lieutenant Colonel. After World War I he ran his family’s Massey-Harris farm implement company until 1925.
For a few months in 1925 he was minister without portfolio in Prime Minister Mackenzie King’s cabinet. He was Canada’s first minister to the United States from 1926 until 1930. From 1932 until 1935 Massey headed the National Liberal Federation. He was then appointed high commissioner for Canada in the United Kingdom, a position he held until 1946. He next served as chancellor of the University of Toronto (1946-53) and chairman of the Royal Commission on National Development in Arts, Letters, and Sciences (1949-52). The commission’s report in 1951 advocated the development of a Canadian culture distinct from that of the United States. Massey was appointed as the first Canadian born Governor General in 1952 and retired from public life in 1959 after his term.
He died in London, England, on December 30, 1967 and is buried in Saint Mark’s Anglican Church Cemetery Port Hope, Northumberland County, Ontario.
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