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William Morris McNamara (1893–1985)

This article was published:

William Morris Jutson (Bill) McNamara (1893-1985) clerk and political and community activist

Birth: 6 August 1893 in Sydney, New South Wales, son of native-born William Henry McNamara (1857-1906), socialist bookshop owner, and Matilda Emilie Bertha (Bertha), née Kalkstein, late Bredt (1853-1931), socialist, feminist and bookshop owner, born at Posen, Prussia (Poland). Marriage: 25 January 1929 at Marrickville, Sydney, to native-born Clarice Irwin (1909-1990). They had one daughter. Death: 1 July 1985 in hospital at Auchenflower, Queensland. 

  • He was born into the family of prominent Sydney socialist activists. One sister, Bertha, married the writer Henry Lawson, the other, Hilda, married the politician Jack Lang.
  • Educated at Sydney Boys’ High School. BA, University of Sydney. Subsequently undertook Diploma of Economics.
  • In 1920s was an active socialist in Australian Labor Party. Chief organiser of Labor Educational League (LEL), established in 1927 to conduct educational classes in ALP and to reform NSW education system. LEL secretary in 1928. Chairman of ALP advisory educational committee 1928-1930.
  • District service manager, Hemingway Robertson Institute (staff training consultants), from 1929 to 1949. Prime-mover behind establishment of Socialisation Units in NSW ALP in 1930-1931. Secretary of the Socialisation Committee 1930-1933.
  • Member of NSW ALP executive, semi-continuously from 1931 to 1947. Secretary ALP Education Committee 1935-1947.
  • Served in World War II as Army education instructor, 1942-1944.
  • Member of Australian Broadcasting Commission 1942-1949. Member of the Australian Universities Commission from 1943 to 1944. Member of the Ministry of Post-War Reconstruction 1943-1944.
  • Founding secretary-director, Henry Lawson Labor College 1944-1946. Member ALP Foreign Affairs Committee 1947. Was an ALP candidate for NSW Legislative Council elections in March 1949.
  • Member, United Nations Subcommittee for the Prevention of Discrimination 1947-1949. Director, UN Information Centre for Australia and New Zealand 1949-51. Honorary secretary of the Australian Association for UN 1953-1955.
  • Member of the Library Board of NSW from 1949 to 1967. Member of the Standing Committee of Trustees of Public Library of NSW from 1958 to 1967.
  • Member of NSW Films Council from 1956. Principal Research Officer, NSW Board of Fire Commissioners, 1951-1958; editor of official journal, Fire, 1954-1958. Member, Board of Fire Commissioners of NSW, 1952-1958.
  • Government nominee director of the Co-operative Building Society Movement, NSW, 1958-1967. Administrative officer, National Trust of Australia, NSW, 1958-1961; field officer, 1961-1967. Vice-chairman, Marriage Guidance Council of NSW, 1959-1967.
  • Cause of death: pneumonia and renal failure.

Sources
Who’s Who in Australia
, 1959, 1965; McNamara Family Papers, ML MSS 4430; B. A. Mitchell, Teachers, Education and Politics (Brisbane, 1975): Lyndall Ryan, ‘Bill McNamara’ in The Hummer, No. 10: https://www.labourhistory.org.au/hummer/no-10/mcnamara/

Additional Resources

  • photo, Truth (Sydney), 19 February 1933, p 1
  • photo, Examiner (Launceston, Tas), 25 January 1950 p 3
  • World War II service file, B884, N429323 (National Archives of Australia)

Citation details

'McNamara, William Morris (1893–1985)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://peopleaustralia.anu.edu.au/biography/mcnamara-william-morris-34109/text42774, accessed 20 June 2024.

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