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Remember This? George Nixon — the reluctant candidate

Longtime MP had a hand in many significant local projects
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George Nixon-ssmpl
Louis St. Laurent (left) and George Nixon, circa 1952. From the Sault Ste. Marie Public Library archives

From the archives of the Sault Ste. Marie Public Library:

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Remember This  . . . George Nixon

George E. Nixon was born on March 9, 1898 in Korah Township to William C. and Margaret J. Nixon.  He was one of 13 children and grew up working on the family farm. 

He married Isobel Agnes Young on January 1, 1925 in Sault Ste. Marie.  He held several jobs throughout his life which included working at Algoma Steel in the Open Hearth. He worked as a locomotive fireman with the Algoma Central Railway for a short time and then managed the Northern Feed and Seed Store on Bruce Street. 

He later started his own business, called Nixon Farm Supplies which he operated for many years.  

In 1925, George Nixon built a home on Carpin Beach Road which he later sold to Earl Fuller in 1932.  In January 1965, this twelve room farm house burned to the ground.  It was the second of three major fires that occurred on that day alone.  The fire began when Mrs. Janet Fuller was stoking the furnace with a poker and a fire spread to destroy the entire home.

George Nixon developed an interest in local politics.  He was a councillor for Korah Township for 1924 and 1925. He also served as an assessor in Korah Township in 1930.  He later served on the school board in Sault Ste. Marie and was the secretary of the West Algoma Liberal Association.    

With this background in municipal/township administration he was elected to the position of Member of Parliament for Algoma West in 1940.  It is interesting to note that when he attended the 1940 Liberal nomination meeting he had no intentions of seeking a nomination but planned simply to vote on the Liberal Association’s candidate. 

So it was with some reluctance that he finally allowed his name to stand for nomination as the Liberal candidate.  He served as Member of Parliament for Algoma West from 1940 until 1968 and during his tenure he served under a number of Prime Ministers including: William Lyon MacKenzie King (Liberal Party), Louis St. Laurent (Liberal Party), John Diefenbaker (Progressive Conservative Party), Lester B. Pearson (Liberal Party) and Pierre Elliot Trudeau (Liberal Party). 

Over his 28 years in Parliament he served as the Liberal Party Whip from 1946 to 1953.  He was also chairman of the Standing Committee on Industrial Relations.  Nixon represented Canada at a NATO conference in Paris in 1957 and again in Washington in 1959 and was also a delegate to the United Nations in 1967.  Two of the Prime Ministers that George Nixon served under, John Diefenbaker and Lester B. Pearson were not known for getting along together but they did have tremendous respect for Mr. Nixon.   In 1968, when George Nixon retired from politics Diefenbaker and Pearson both came to Sault Ste. Marie to personally express their appreciation for his long years of service as a Member of Parliament.  

Many said that the reason for Nixon’s success in politics was his reputation for working hard and his friendly disposition.   He contributed to the completion of several major projects here in Sault Ste. Marie.  The International Bridge, the Seaway, the Federal Airport, the Trans-Canada Highway, a Federal Building on Queen Street, Sault College and the Armoury were all projects he had a hand in.  

George Nixon had a devout belief that young people should be active in the democratic process.  He stated in a 1957 Sault Star article: “Whether a young person aspires to a seat in the House of Commons or not, in our democratic way of life politics is the concern of everyone over 21.  I feel that it is the duty of every young person to support the party – any party — of his choice.” 

This is a fitting statement for a man who devoted much of his life to his community.    

George Nixon died on March 17, 1981 at the age of 83 and is buried in West Korah Cemetery.  

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Each week, the Sault Ste. Marie Public Library and its Archives provides SooToday readers with a glimpse of the city’s past.

Find out more of what the Public Library has to offer at www.ssmpl.ca and look for more Remember This? columns here