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Arnold Heeney, son of Reverend Bertal Heeney, was educated at the University of Manitoba and then attended Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar. He earned a Bachelor of Civil Law at McGill University and became a lawyer.
He first met Mackenzie King in 1933, when he went with his father to see King at his home in the Gatineau Hills. King found their visit deeply inspiring. Because he admired Matthew Arnold greatly, King felt it significant that the young Heeney had the name "Arnold." (Diary, July 9, 1933)
In 1938, Arnold Heeney accepted King's invitation to become his Principal Secretary. King wrote: "It is an immense relief to my mind to have secured Heeney, and a relief to my heart as well having gained the kind of association I had hoped to have in the work of my office." (Diary, September 4, 1938)
In 1940, Heeney was appointed Clerk of the Privy Council and Secretary to the Cabinet. He held both these positions until 1949. He was one of Canada's most important public servants during the Second World War.
In 1949, he became Under Secretary of State for External Affairs, then Ambassador to NATO. He was Canada's Ambassador to the United States twice, 1953 to 1957 and 1959 to 1962. He was Chairman of the Civil Service Commission, 1957 to 1959, and later Canadian Chairman, International Joint Commission, 1962 to 1970, and Canadian Chairman, Permanent Joint Board on Defence, 1967 to 1970.
Heeney wrote several books on Canadian government and the public service. His autobiography, entitled The Things that are Caesar's: Memoirs of a Canadian Public Servant (published posthumously in 1972), contains much information about his work with King.
Library and Archives Canada holds the Arnold Heeney Papers (MG30-E144).