St. Bonaventure’s College regrets to advise of the passing of the Hon. James A. McGrath, PC, K.St.J., LL.D. McGrath was a founding Board member of St. Bon’s when it reopened as an independent Jesuit, Catholic school in 1999. He also served on the Magis Award for Young Alumni selection committee since its founding in 2013. Below is the obituary for McGrath.
Hon. James A. McGrath, PC, K.St.J., LL.D
(January 11, 1932 – February 28, 2017)
James McGrath, the former Member of Parliament for St. John’s East and the eighth Lieutenant Governor of Newfoundland, died peacefully at his Kenny’s Pond residence in St. John’s on Tuesday, February 28, 2017. McGrath passed away surrounded by his family following a brief illness. He is survived by his wife, Margaret, and children, Kathleen, Caroline, Peggy, Joanna and Sean (Esther Squires) and eight grandchildren (Kate, Molly, Thea, Sophia, Patrick, Seamus, Ethan, Francis) and one great granddaughter, Ida. McGrath was born in Buchans, Newfoundland, one of 13 children. He was a volunteer during the Referendum of 1948, the outcome of which was Newfoundland entering into Confederation with Canada. These events inspired him to enter public life and to represent the interests of Newfoundland nationally and internationally throughout his career. The day after Confederation, McGrath obtained the last issued Newfoundland Passport.
McGrath was first elected to the House of Commons in 1957 as the Progressive Conservative Member of Parliament for St. John’s East. In 1962, McGrath became parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Mines and Technical Surveys. McGrath was re-elected in the 1968 election, and remained in parliament through five subsequent elections. In 1979, McGrath was appointed Minister of Fisheries and Oceans. In August 1986, McGrath was appointed Lieutenant Governor of Newfoundland, a position he held until 1991.
McGrath was appointed chairman of the Special Committee on the Reform of the House of Commons. The report he authored led to a number of procedural changes, including the introduction of election by secret ballot for the position of Speaker of the Canadian House of Commons. The Committee’s recommendations led to the formation of the Canadian Association of Former Parliamentarians. McGrath also served as chairman of the Standing Committee on Human Rights.
McGrath received several awards throughout his parliamentary career including the Churchill Society Award for the advancement of parliamentary democracy. He received an honorary doctorate from St. Francis Xavier University in 1979. McGrath was a Knight, Order of St. John of Jerusalem, and a Knight, Great Cross, Sovereign Military Order of Malta. He was awarded the Queen’s Jubilee Medal and in 1987 became one of only six Canadians to receive a life membership in the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association.
Visitation will be held at Caul’s Funeral Home in St. John’s on Thursday, March 2nd, from 2-5pm and 6-9pm. The funeral mass will be held at 9:30am on Friday, March 3rd, at the Basilica of St. John the Baptist, St. John’s.