JENKINS, John Greeley (1851-1923)


JENKINS, John Greeley (1851-1923)
premier of South Australia
fourth son of Evan Jenkins and Mary Davis of South Wales, was born in Pennsylvania, U.S.A., on 8 September 1851. He was educated at the Wyoming Seminary, Pa., and after working on his father's farm, became in 1872 a traveller for a publishing company. He came to South Australia in 1878 as a representative of this company, but presently began importing both American and English books. He was for a time manager in South Australia for the Picturesque Atlas of Australasia, and afterwards was partner with C. G. Gurr in an estate agency and auctioneering business at Adelaide. In June 1886 he was elected a member of the house of assembly for East Adelaide and in 1887 transferred to the Sturt electorate, and represented it for several Years. In March 1891 he became minister of education in the second Playford (q.v.) ministry, and exchanged this for the portfolio of commissioner of public works in January 1892. The ministry resigned in June 1892 and on 20 April 1894 Jenkins was again given this position in the Kingston (q.v.) ministry which remained in office until 1 December 1899. A week later the second Holder (q.v.) ministry was formed with Benzins as chief secretary, and when Holder went into federal politics in May 1901, Jenkins became premier, chief secretary, and minister controlling the Northern Territory. On 1 March 1905 he resigned to become agent-general for South Australia at London. He gave up the position in 1908 on account of a disagreement with the Price (q.v.) government on the question of a loan. He remained in London and was active in connexion with international trade congresses but retained his interest in Australia. He was once described as "Australia's Unofficial High Commissioner". In 1918 he stood for Putney in an election for the British house of commons but was defeated. He had a good standing in the city of London, and when the chamber of commerce sent a delegation to the United States of America, Jenkins was the chief spokesman. He also revisited Australia with a project for the development of Papua. He died in London, following an operation, on 22 February 1923. He married Jeannie Mary, daughter of W. H. Charlton of Adelaide, who survived him with a son and a daughter. He published pamphlets on Australian Products, and Social Conditions of Australia, and also edited the Australasian section of the Encyclopaedia Americana. He was a fluent speaker with a gift of repartee, and a hard-working minister. As premier he took an important share of the work connected with ministerial bills, and among the acts he was responsible for were those providing free education, the Happy Valley water-supply system for Adelaide, and the trans-continental railway.
The Times, 23 February 1923; The Register, Adelaide and The Advertiser, Adelaide, 24 February 1923; Who's Who, 1923.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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