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A Real Companion and Friend:
The diary of William Lyon Mackenzie King

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Behind the Diary

A King's Who's Who Biographies

John King, father (1843-1916)

John King, 1892


John King, 1892

John King, father of Mackenzie King, was a lawyer in Berlin (now Kitchener), Ontario. In 1872 he married Isabel Grace Mackenzie. They had four children: Bella, Willie (Mackenzie King), Jennie and Max. In 1893, the family moved to Toronto, where John King worked as a lawyer, lecturer and writer. In his later years, his eyesight began to fail, and he became nearly blind. He died in 1916. This photograph of his carte-de-visite was taken at Preston, Ontario.

John King, the father of Mackenzie King, was born shortly after the death of his father. He was raised by his widowed mother, Christina, who lived with her brother Dougall Macdougall, a newspaper editor and publisher in Berlin (now Kitchener), Ontario. John studied at the University of Toronto earning his B.A. in 1864 and M.A. in 1865. He then returned to Berlin and edited the Telegraph for a short period of time. After that, he went back to the University of Toronto, to Osgoode Hall, and was called to the Bar in 1869. He began his own law practice in Berlin. On December 12, 1872, he married Isabel Grace Mackenzie. The couple settled in Berlin and lived there for more than 20 years with their growing family.

In 1893, John King accepted a part-time lectureship at Osgoode Hall and the family moved to Toronto. John King enjoyed teaching and held that job for 22 years. He was also a respected writer. His writings included literary articles for the Toronto Globe, some historical and biographical essays, and two books on his legal specialty, defamation and criminal libel. But his law practice in Toronto was never as large or as profitable as he had hoped.

John King's eyesight began to fail and he became nearly blind. He died on August 30, 1916. Shortly afterwards, Mackenzie King wrote: "Dear Father, to be like him in spirit and in heart is my ambition now.... It has been a joy to reflect that in these apartments he spent his last night with me, that he and mother and I dined together here, that we shared music and song together & sweet companionship.... How sacred these remembrances are now." (Diary, October 13, 1916)