Sir William Buell Richards (William Buell Richards)

Sir William Buell Richards

Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada. He was a son of Stephen Richards, Sr. and Phoebe (Buell) Richards, both of whom were among the pioneer families of Upper Canada following the American Revolution. His formal education began at the Johnstown District Grammar School in Brockville, Ontario. In 1837, after earning his degree from Saint Lawrence Academy in Potsdam, New York (now State University of New York, Potsdam), he returned to his hometown and began practicing law. Circa 1843, he began practicing law with his maternal uncle Andrew Norton Buell. On October 19, 1846 he married Deborah Catherine Muirhead, and the couple had five children.  He entered politics in 1848 upon his election as a Member of Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada, as a representative of Leeds County in the Province of Canada West (present-day Ontario).  During this period, he was appointed Attorney General of the province.  He became a member of the Law Society of Upper Canada in 1849, and in 1850 he had the distinction of being appointed a Queen’s Counsel (QC) of Her Majesty Queen Victoria.  A very active reformer, he supported and participated in many civic organizations, such as the Brockville Mechanics’ Institute, lending libraries, the Brockville Town Council, and agricultural societies.  He was particularly supportive, and popular among, the Irish Roman Catholics who settled in Canada during the years of Ireland’s Great Famine and its aftermath.  In 1851, he was appointed Attorney General of the Province of Canada (Canada West, present-day Ontario).  In 1853, he departed his political career upon appointment as a judge in the Court of Common Pleas for Canada West.  He was appointed the court’s Chief Justice in 1863 and in 1868 was advanced to Chief Justice of the Province of Ontario.  In 1871, he and other Canadian jurists visited Washington, DC and the judges of the United States Supreme Court to help determine whether a supreme court in Canada ought to be established.  The Supreme Court of Canada was finally created on September 30, 1875 and he was immediately appointed first Chief Justice of Canada.  In 1876, he briefly served as Deputy Governor General of Canada.  In October 1877, Richards was knighted by Queen Victoria in recognition of his many services to Canada.  He served as Chief Justice until his retirement from public life on January 10, 1879. (bio by: wildgoose)


  • May, 02, 1815
  • Canada


  • January, 01, 1889
  • Canada


  • Brockville Old Protestant Cemetery
  • Ontario
  • Canada

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