A Place of Justice
Legal Archives Society of Alberta

John W. McDonald, Q.C. seated in his office in Macleod, c. 1920
Legal Archives Society of Alberta,
John W. McDonald fonds no. 51, item no. 51-G-3

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Surrounded by law books, photographs and professional certificates, John Walter McDonald, K.C. sorts through the morning mail in his law office in Macleod, Alberta. Land maps of Alberta are under the glass table top of his desk and his Law Society of Alberta membership (roll no. 133) hangs proudly on the wall. This photograph clearly captures a typical office of an early Alberta lawyer.

His Honour John Walter McDonald was born in Vaughan, Ontario, on May 21, 1878. In 1905, he received his LL.B. from the University of Toronto and a Bachelor of Civil Law degree from Osgoode Hall Law School. He practiced in Toronto with the firm of Denton Dunn and Boultbee until 1907 and then moved west, settling in Fort Macleod, where he was admitted to the Alberta Bar on February 11, 1907. He practiced with the firm of MacKenzie, McDonald and Watt before forming his own partnership in 1912 as the firm of McDonald, Martin and MacKenzie. He was appointed KC on February 4, 1919. He was also made Crown Prosecutor that year and was widely recognized for the success he achieved in handling criminal cases. His two most famous murder trials were "R. v. Basoff" in 1920 and "R. v. Zitto" in 1923. A member of the Liberal Party, he lost in the provincial elections of 1926 and 1930, and was elected leader of the provincial party in 1930. He also served on the local school board, several community organizations, and was an honorary Chief of the Blood Indians. McDonald was elected Mayor of Fort Macleod, 1923-1930 and 1934-1938. He died on November 8, 1950.

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A Sense of Place