William Joseph Browne

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The Hon.
William Joseph Browne
Member of the Canadian Parliament
for St. John's West
In office
Preceded by District was created in 1949
Succeeded by James Augustine Power
In office
Preceded by James Augustine Power
Succeeded by Richard Cashin
Personal details
Born (1897-05-03)May 3, 1897
St. John's, Newfoundland
Died January 10, 1989(1989-01-10) (aged 91)
Political party Progressive Conservative
Cabinet Minister Without Portfolio (1957–1960)
Solicitor General of Canada (1960–1962)

William Joseph Browne, PC QC (May 3, 1897 – January 10, 1989) was a Canadian lawyer, judge and politician. He served in the Newfoundland House of Assembly and the Canadian House of Commons.[1]

The son of Liberius Browne and Bridget O'Reilly, he was born in St. John's, Newfoundland and was educated at Holy Cross School, Saint Bonaventure's College, the University of Oxford, the University of Toronto and Gray's Inn in London. Browne was called to the bars of both England and Newfoundland in 1922 and practised law in Newfoundland.[2]

Browne ran unsuccessfully for the Placentia-St. Mary's seat in the Newfoundland assembly in 1923. He was elected for St. John's West in 1924 and defeated when he ran for reelection in 1928. He was elected to the assembly again in 1932 for Harbour Main-Bell Island and so was a member of the last Newfoundland House of Assembly in 1933 when the Commission of Government took over governing Newfoundland. He was a cabinet minister in the government of Frederick C. Alderdice, first serving as a minister without portfolio and then as Minister of Finance and Customs and Minister of Justice.[3]

In 1934, he was named King's Counsel. From 1934 to 1939, Browne was a judge in the Central District Court. In 1949, he was elected to the Canadian House of Commons in the riding of St. John's West. A Progressive Conservative, he was defeated in the 1953 federal election. He was elected again to the House of Assembly in 1954. He was re-elected to the House of Commons in the 1957 and 1958 elections. He was defeated in the 1962 election and again in the 1965 election. From 1957 to 1960, he was a Minister without Portfolio in the cabinet of John Diefenbaker.[2] From 1960 to 1962, he was the Solicitor General of Canada. He retired from politics in 1962 and returned to the practice of law.[4]

In 1981, he published his biography, Eighty-four years a Newfoundlander: Memoirs of William J. Browne (ISBN 0-9690979-0-5).[5]

He was married four times: first to Mary Grace Harris in 1924, to Mary Roche in 1933, to Margaret Fleming (née Buckley) in 1951.,[2] and to Dr Norah Elphinstone Renouf in 1970,[6] outliving all his wives except for Norah, who died Nov. 24, 2010.

Browne died in St. John's at the age of 91.[3]


  • "William Browne Newfoundland politician opposed Confederation". The Globe and Mail. January 11, 1989. 
Political offices
Preceded by
Léon Balcer
Solicitor General of Canada
Succeeded by
John Watson MacNaught