In Praise of our Distinguished Predecessor

J. King Gordon (b.1900, d.1989) was not a professional economist, though as a Rhodes Scholar he studied philosophy, politics and economics at Oxford while inhaling the Fabianism in the air. He was a progressive and a political activist who deserves to be remembered by us. Twice in his life he was there at the birth of promising, exciting, progress and in both cases he chose to be part of the movement.

First, he was one of the small group who wrote the 1933 Regina Manifesto that launched the CCF which later morphed into the NDP. He was three times a federal candidate for the CCF, losing the last time by a mere ninety votes. Having been ordained in the United Church of Canada and teaching at a divinity school, he formally went into politics when he was dismissed by the college. He moved from preacher to practioner of the social gospel that was at the heart of progressive politics in Canada at that time. Unelected, unable to find a job, he reluctantly left Canada for New York in 1938 to work in publishing and in 1944 became the managing editor of The Nation.

The second time he was where the action was when the UN was created and located in New York. He became the chief UN correspondent for CBC Radio, and in 1950 he was hired away to become a senior information officer of the UN Secretariat. He served the UN, working in Korea, the Middle East and the Congo. He returned to Canada on his retirement to teach international relations at the University of Alberta and to spread the good word about the UN.

You can learn all of this and much more from the recently published biography of King Gordon by the American scholar Eileen Janzen titled “Growing to One World.” This most appropriate title is from the title of a poem – “We grow to one world” – by another great Canadian progressive and close friend of Gordon, Frank Scott. Scott tells Professor Jantzen “King was the most Canadian of us all.”

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