|Name:||Lester B. Pearson|
|Birth Day:||April 23, 1897|
|Death Date:||Dec 27, 1972 (age 75)|
As per our current Database, Lester B. Pearson died on Dec 27, 1972 (age 75).
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He served in the medical corps early in World War I, then trained as a pilot.
Pearson graduated from Hamilton Collegiate Institute in Hamilton, Ontario, in 1913 at the age of 16. Later that same year, after spending three months at his uncle's emu farm in Australia, he entered Victoria College at the University of Toronto, where he lived in residence in Gate House and shared a room with his brother Duke. He was later elected to the Pi Gamma Mu social sciences honour society's chapter at the University of Toronto for his outstanding scholastic performance in history and psychology. Just as Northrop Frye and his storied student Margaret Atwood would, along with other luminaries – such as Norman Jewison and E. J. Pratt – Pearson participated in the sophomore theatrical tradition of The Bob Comedy Revue. After Victoria College, Pearson won a scholarship to study at St John's College, Oxford, from 1921 to 1923.
During World War I, Pearson volunteered for service as a medical orderly with the University of Toronto Hospital Unit. In 1915, he entered overseas service with the Canadian Army Medical Corps as a stretcher-bearer with the rank of private, and was subsequently promoted to corporal. During this period of service, he spent nearly two years in Southern Europe, being shipped to Egypt and thereafter served on the Salonika Front. He also served alongside the Serbian Army as a medical orderly. On 2 August 1917, Pearson was commissioned a temporary lieutenant. He transferred to the Royal Flying Corps that year, since the Royal Canadian Air Force did not exist at that time, where he served as a flying officer until being sent home with injuries from two accidents. Pearson learned to fly at an air training school in Hendon, England. He survived an airplane crash during his first flight.
In 1918, Pearson was hit by a bus in London during a citywide blackout and he was sent home to recuperate, but then he was discharged from the service. It was as a pilot that he received the nickname of "Mike", given to him by a flight instructor who felt that "Lester" was too mild a name for an airman. Thereafter, Pearson would use the name "Lester" on official documents and in public life, but was always addressed as "Mike" by friends and family.
After the war, he returned to school, receiving his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Toronto in 1919. He was able to complete his degree after one more term, under a ruling in force at the time, since he had served in the military during the war. He then spent a year working in Hamilton, Ontario and Chicago, in the meat-packing industry, which he did not enjoy.
At the University of Toronto, Pearson became a noted athlete, excelling in rugby union and also playing basketball. He later also played for the Oxford University Ice Hockey Club while on a scholarship at the University of Oxford, a team that won the first Spengler Cup in 1923. Pearson also excelled in baseball and lacrosse as a youth. His baseball talents as an infielder were strong enough for a summer of semi-pro play with the Guelph Maple Leafs of the Ontario Intercounty Baseball League. Pearson toured North America with a combined Oxford and Cambridge Universities lacrosse team in 1923. After he joined the University of Toronto History Department as an instructor, he helped to coach the U of T's football and hockey teams. He played golf and tennis to high standards as an adult.
Upon receiving a scholarship from the Massey Foundation, he studied for two years at St John's College at the University of Oxford, where he received a B.A. degree with Second-Class honours in modern history in 1923, and the M.A. in 1925. After Oxford, he returned to Canada and taught history at the University of Toronto.
In 1925, he married Maryon Moody, from Winnipeg, who had been one of his students at the University of Toronto. Together, they had one son, Geoffrey, and one daughter, Patricia. Although Maryon was initially a highly critical woman with an occasionally short temper during the first two decades of marriage, she supported her husband in all his political endeavors.
In 1927, after scoring the top marks on the Canadian foreign service entry exam, he then embarked on a career in the Department of External Affairs. Prime Minister R. B. Bennett was a noted talent spotter. He took note of, and encouraged, the young Lester Pearson in the early 1930s, and appointed Pearson to significant roles on two major government inquiries: the 1931 Royal Commission on Grain Futures, and the 1934 Royal Commission on Price Spreads. Bennett saw that Pearson was recognized with an OBE after he shone in that work, arranged a bonus of $1,800, and invited him to a London conference. Pearson was assigned to the High Commission of Canada to the United Kingdom in 1935, and he served there during World War II from 1939 through 1942 as the second-in-command at Canada House, where he coordinated military supply and refugee problems, serving under High Commissioner Vincent Massey. In his book (published as "Mike: The Memoirs of the Rt. Hon. Lester B. Pearson, Volume One: 1897-1948"), Pearson reveals that during 1940 he was hired by Sir William Stephenson—the enigmatic WWII spymaster known as "Intrepid"—to serve as a "King's Messenger" or courier conveying secret documents to Europe. (Ref. A Man Called Intrepid—The Secret War, by William Stevenson (1976).
Pearson returned to Ottawa for a few months, where he was an assistant under secretary from 1941 through 1942. In June 1942 he was posted to the Canadian Embassy in Washington, D.C., as a ministerial counsellor. He served as second-in-command for nearly two years. Promoted minister plenipotentiary in 1944, he became the second Canadian Ambassador to the United States on 1 January 1945. He remained in this position through September 1946.
Pearson nearly became the first Secretary-General of the United Nations in 1946, but he was vetoed by the Soviet Union. He was also the leading candidate for Secretary-General in the 1953 selection, when the British conducted a vigorous campaign on his behalf. He placed first with 10 out of 11 votes in the Security Council, but the lone negative vote was another Soviet veto. The Security Council instead settled on Dag Hammarskjöld of Sweden; all UN Secretaries-General would come from neutral countries for the rest of the Cold War.
In 1948, before his retirement, Prime Minister King appointed Pearson Secretary of State for External Affairs (foreign minister) in the Liberal government. Shortly afterward, Pearson won a seat in the House of Commons, for the federal riding of Algoma East in Northern Ontario. Pearson then served as Secretary of State for External Affairs for Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent, until the defeat of the St. Laurent government in 1957.
In 1957, for his role in resolving the Suez Crisis through the United Nations, Pearson was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The selection committee argued that Pearson had "saved the world", but critics accused him of betraying the motherland and Canada's ties with the UK. Pearson and UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld are considered the fathers of the modern concept of peacekeeping. Together, they were able to organize the United Nations Emergency Force by way of a five-day fly-around in early November 1956. His Nobel medal is on permanent display in the front lobby of the Lester B. Pearson Building, the headquarters of Global Affairs Canada in Ottawa.
Pearson convened a significant "Thinkers' Conference" at Kingston, Ontario in 1960. This event developed many of the ideas later implemented when he became the Prime Minister.
Pearson has been credited with instituting the world's first race-free immigration system. Credit for who created the policy, however, is disputed, and likely should be shared with John Diefenbaker. Diefenbaker's government in 1962 introduced a new race-free policy; however, under the 1962 policy, Americans were still given an advantage. It was in 1967 that Pearson introduced a discrimination-free points-based system which encouraged immigration to Canada, a forerunner of the system still in place today.
Not long after the election, Pearson capitalized on the Conservatives' indecision on accepting American nuclear warheads on Canadian BOMARC missiles. Defence Minister Douglas Harkness resigned from Cabinet on 4 February 1963, because of Diefenbaker's opposition to accepting the warheads. On the next day, the government lost two nonconfidence motions on the issue, forcing a national election. In that election, the Liberals took 129 seats to the Tories' 95. Despite winning 41 percent of the vote, the Liberals came up five seats short of a majority largely because of winning just three seats on the Prairies. With the support of six Social Credit MPs from Quebec, Pearson was able to guarantee stable government to the Governor-General, and Diefenbaker resigned, allowing Pearson to form a minority government. He was sworn in as the Prime Minister on 22 April 1963. Even though the support the Social Credit MPs was soon withdrawn, Pearson was able to maintain government with the support of the New Democratic Party.
On 15 January 1964, Pearson became the first Canadian Prime Minister to make an official state visit to France.
Pearson's government endured significant controversy in Canada's military services throughout the mid-1960s, following the tabling of the White Paper on Defence in March 1964. This document laid out a plan to merge the Royal Canadian Navy, the Royal Canadian Air Force, and the Canadian Army to form a single service called the Canadian Forces. Military unification took effect on 1 February 1968, when The Canadian Forces Reorganization Act received Royal Assent.
Pearson signed the Canada–United States Automotive Agreement (or Auto Pact) in January 1965, and unemployment fell to its lowest rate in over a decade. While in office, Pearson declined U.S. requests to send Canadian combat troops into the Vietnam War. Pearson spoke at Temple University in Philadelphia on 2 April 1965, while visiting the United States and reportedly voiced his support for a pause in the American bombing of North Vietnam, so that a diplomatic solution to the crisis may unfold. To President Lyndon B. Johnson, this criticism of American foreign policy on American soil was an intolerable sin. Before Pearson had finished his speech, he was summoned to Camp David, Maryland, to meet with Johnson the next day. Johnson, who was notorious for his personal touch in politics, reportedly grabbed Pearson by the lapels and shouted, "Don't you come into my living room and piss on my rug." Text of his Philadelphia speech, however, showed that Pearson in fact supported President Johnson's policy in Vietnam, even stating "The government and great majority of people of my country have supported wholeheartedly the US peacekeeping and peacemaking policies in Vietnam."
Pearson also oversaw Canada's centennial celebrations in 1967 before retiring. The Canadian news agency, The Canadian Press, named him "Newsmaker of the Year" that year, citing his leadership during the centennial celebrations, which brought the Centennial Flame to Parliament Hill.
Also in 1967, the President of France, Charles de Gaulle, made a visit to Quebec. During that visit, de Gaulle was a staunch advocate of Quebec separatism, even going so far as to say that his procession in Montreal reminded him of his return to Paris after it was freed from the Nazis during the Second World War. President de Gaulle also gave his "Vive le Québec libre" speech during the visit. Given Canada's efforts in aiding France during both world wars, Pearson was enraged. He rebuked de Gaulle in a speech the following day, remarking that "Canadians do not need to be liberated" and made it clear that de Gaulle was no longer welcome in Canada.
From 1968 to 1969, Pearson served as chairman of the Commission on International Development (the Pearson Commission), which was sponsored by the World Bank. Immediately following his retirement, he lectured in history and political science at Carleton University while writing his memoirs. From 1970 to 1972, he was the first chairman of the Board of Governors of the International Development Research Centre. From 1969 until his death in 1972, he was chancellor of Carleton University in Ottawa.
Pearson was appointed a Companion of the Order of Canada on 28 June 1968. His citation reads:
In 1970, Pearson underwent a surgery to have his right eye removed in order to remove a tumor in that area.
Pearson had planned at the time to write a three-volume set of memoirs, and had published Volume One by 1972. He had finished but a few chapters of Volume Two when, in November 1972, it was reported that he was admitted to the hospital for further unspecified treatment, but the prognosis was poor. He tried to write at this juncture the story of his prime ministerial career, but his condition, which was already precarious, deteriorated rapidly by Christmas Eve.
On 27 December 1972, it was announced that the cancer had spread to the liver and Pearson had lapsed into a coma. He died at 11:40 pm ET on 27 December 1972 in his Ottawa home.
Currently, Lester B. Pearson is 125 years, 7 months and 10 days old. Lester B. Pearson will celebrate 126th birthday on a Sunday 23rd of April 2023.
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