William Johnstone Ritchie

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The Honourable
Sir William Johnstone Ritchie
William Johnstone Ritchie.jpg
2nd Chief Justice of Canada
In office
January 11, 1879 – September 25, 1892
Nominated by John A. Macdonald
Preceded by William Buell Richards
Succeeded by Samuel Henry Strong
1st Puisne Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada
In office
September 30, 1875 – January 11, 1879
Nominated by Alexander Mackenzie
Preceded by None (new position)
Succeeded by John Gwynne
Personal details
Born (1813-10-28)October 28, 1813
Annapolis, Nova Scotia
Died September 25, 1892(1892-09-25) (aged 78)
Ottawa, Ontario
Spouse(s) Martha Strang
Grace Vernon Nicholson
Religion Anglican

Sir William Johnstone Ritchie (October 28, 1813 – September 25, 1892) was one of the first judges appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada and became the second Chief Justice of the court, and the second-longest serving Chief Justice to date.

Ritchie was born in Annapolis, Nova Scotia to Thomas Ritchie and Elizabeth Wildman Johnstone. He graduated from the Pictou Academy and went to study law in Halifax in the office of his brother, John William Ritchie. He was called to the bar of Nova Scotia in 1837 but moved to Saint John, New Brunswick, and was called to the bar of that province the following year.

In 1846 he was elected to the Legislative Assembly of New Brunswick. In keeping with his pledge to resign if a fellow Liberal candidate failed to win a by-election, he gave up his seat in 1851, only to be re-elected three years later. In 1855 he left politics to accept an appointment to the Supreme Court of New Brunswick, and 10 years later he was named Chief Justice of New Brunswick. He was appointed to the newly established Supreme Court of Canada on September 30, 1875 and became its chief justice on January 11, 1879. He served on the Supreme Court for 17 years until he died on September 25, 1892.

Ritchie was twice married. He was first married at Rothesay, Scotland on September 21, 1843 to Martha Strang. She was the daughter of John Strang, a shipping merchant from St. Andrews. Martha Ritchie died in 1847. A son and a daughter were born to this marriage. Ritchie's second marriage was at Saint John, New Brunswick on May 5, 1856 to Grace Vernon Nicholson (1838–1911). She was the daughter of the late Captain Thomas L. Nicholson and his wife Amy (née Vernon) and stepdaughter of Vice-Admiral William Fitzwilliam Owen, R.N. Seven sons and five daughters where born to this marriage.

Sir William and Lady Ritchie are buried in Beechwood Cemetery, Ottawa.

Ritchie's great-nephew, Roland Ritchie, would also go on to serve as a puisne justice of the Supreme Court.[1]

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Legal offices
Preceded by
Robert Parker
Chief Justice of New Brunswick
1865–1875
Succeeded by
John C. Allen