James Mitchell (Australian politician)

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Sir James Mitchell

Sir James Mitchell.jpg
13th Premier of Western Australia
In office
17 May 1919 16 April 1924
Preceded by Sir Hal Colebatch
Succeeded by Philip Collier
In office
24 April 1930 24 April 1933
Preceded by Philip Collier
Succeeded by Philip Collier
Constituency Northam
20th Governor of Western Australia
In office
5 October 1948 30 June 1951
Preceded by Sir William Campion
Succeeded by Sir Charles Gairdner
Personal details
Born(1866-04-27)27 April 1866
Dardanup, Western Australia, Australia
Died26 July 1951(1951-07-26) (aged 85)
Glen Mervyn siding, Mumballup, Western Australia, Australia
Political party Nationalist
Spouse(s)Clara Robinson Spencer (m.1888–1949; her death)

Sir James Mitchell, GCMG (27 April 1866 – 26 July 1951) was an Australian politician. He was the 13th Premier of Western Australia, serving on two occasions, the Lieutenant-Governor of Western Australia for 15 years, and the 22nd Governor of Western Australia from 1948 to 1951.


Early life and family

Mitchell, the eldest of thirteen children, was educated at Bunbury, Western Australia and in 1885 joined the Western Australian Bank. He later was a farmer.

Mitchell married Clara Robinson Spencer, daughter of future MP William Spencer in 1888. They were married for 61 years until Clara's death in October 1949.

Political career

In 1906, the state premier Newton Moore made Mitchell an honorary minister for agricultural expansion. In 1909 he was promoted, being given the portfolios of lands and agriculture. He recruited William Lowrie as director of agriculture.

On 17 May 1919, Premier Hal Colebatch resigned and Mitchell succeeded to the position. Mitchell won the 1921 election and remained premier until 1924. During this period he garnered much publicity for his strong support for the Soldier-Settlement Scheme in the south-west of Western Australia. As a result of his enthusiastic promotion of this scheme (which ultimately proved very costly in terms of money and resources) he was dubbed "Moo-Cow" Mitchell by the local press. [1] Nonetheless the establishment of a dairy industry in Western Australia can be largely credited to him. He also proved adept at dealing with the divisions between the Nationalist Party and the Country Party.

Mitchell's election to a second term in office coincided with the onset of the Great Depression. His government was defeated at the 1933 state elections, in addition to which he became the first Western Australian premier to lose both a state election and his parliamentary seat (of Northam).

As a result of financial difficulties during the Great Depression, Tasmania had appointed a lieutenant governor in the 1930s. With the approval of the major political parties, in July 1933 Mitchell was appointed Lieutenant-Governor of Western Australia. This meant that, although he resided in Government House, Perth, and was governor in all but name, he drew no salary, thus making a reduced demand on the public purse at a time when ordinary people were under severe restraint. He held the position until he was finally appointed Governor of Western Australia in 1948. Mitchell was the first Australian-born Governor of Western Australia; he remains the only person to have served as both premier and governor of the state. He retired from the post in June 1951. One month later he died in his railway coach during an overnight stop at Glen Mervyn siding, about 26 kilometres (16 mi) from Donnybrook, Western Australia, while on a tour of the southwest of the state. He was 85. [2] [3]


The Mitchell Freeway was named in his honour, as was Sir James Mitchell Park in South Perth and Sir James Mitchell National Park. The botanist Charles Gardner named the rapier featherflower, Verticordia mitchelliana in his honour. [4]

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  1. "THE CALAMITOUS MOO-COW". Sunday Times (Perth, WA : 1902 – 1954) . Perth, WA: National Library of Australia. 16 February 1908. p. 3 Section: FIRST SECTION. Retrieved 22 January 2014. the SundaY Times piece suggests the name was given a lot earlier
  2. "Death of Sir J. Mitchell on W.A. Tour". The Advertiser. Adelaide. 27 July 1951. p. 2. Retrieved 25 September 2020.
  3. "In memoriam – The Honorable Sir James Mitchell, G.C.M.G., our late president [Obituary]", Journal and Proceedings (Western Australian Historical Society : 1949), 4 (pt.3): 31, 1951, ISSN   1837-8285
  4. Elizabeth A. (Berndt) George; Margaret Pieroni (illustrator) (2002). Verticordia: the turner of hearts (1st ed.). Crawley, Western Australia: University of Western Australia Press. p. 294. ISBN   1-876268-46-8.
Political offices
Preceded by
Sir Hal Colebatch
Premier of Western Australia
Succeeded by
Philip Collier
Preceded by
Philip Collier
Premier of Western Australia
Government offices
Title last held by
Sir William Campion
Governor of Western Australia
Succeeded by
Sir Charles Gairdner