SMITH, Sir Edwin Thomas (1830-1919)


SMITH, Sir Edwin Thomas (1830-1919)
politician and public man
was born at Walsall, Staffordshire, England, on 6 April 1830. He was educated at Queen Mary's Grammar School, Walsall, and on leaving school had business experience with an uncle. When only 20 years of age he was taking part in local politics, but in 1853 he emigrated to South Australia and began business as an importer of ironmongery at Adelaide. He subsequently went into brewing and in a few years was in control of the most important brewery in South Australia. He took part in municipal government, was mayor of Kensington and Norwood, 1867-70, and 1871-3, and then was elected to the Adelaide city council. He was mayor of Adelaide in 1879-81, and 1886 and 1887. He had entered parliament in 1871 as member for East Torrens in the house of assembly, and except for a year while he was visiting England, continued to represent this constituency until he retired in 1893. He was elected to the legislative council in 1894 and remained a member until 1902. During the whole of his parliamentary experience he never lost an election. Though an active member of parliament he was not anxious for office, and only once was included in a government; he was minister for education in the Bray (q.v.) ministry from March to June 1884. He was, however, responsible for some useful legislation including a first offenders act, and he took a leading part in the promotion of the jubilee exhibition held at Adelaide in 1887. In the city council he was always anxious to improve the city and it was a result of his advocacy that Adelaide had its first tramways, King William-street was extended, and the Torrens lake formed. He also gave the statue of Queen Victoria which was placed in the centre of Adelaide.
Smith retired from the active conduct of his business in 1888 and from parliament in 1902, but he took a great interest in a large number of institutions to many of which he gave both time and money. He was chairman of the national park commissioners, and of the Adelaide Savings Bank, and was an active worker in the management of the blind, deaf and dumb institution, the Adelaide hospital, the old colonists association, the Elder workmen's homes, the botanic gardens, and the zoological gardens. He was a patron or office-bearer in every important Adelaide sporting organization, was president of the South Australian Cricket Association for about 30 years, and during that period seldom missed a committee meeting. His public benefactions were many and included £2000 to clear the debt off the Norwood Oval, £2000 for the Blind, Deaf and Dumb Institution, £1000 to start an insurance fund for the Commercial Travellers' Association, and his private benefactions were without end. Without any pretensions to oratory or great learning, but with an excellent conception of what would be worth while and feasible, Smith laboured all his life for the good of his community. He died on 25 December 1919. He was married twice, (1) in 1857 to Florence Stock who died in 1862, (2) in 1869 to Elizabeth Spicer who died in 1911. He was survived by a son and a daughter of the first marriage. He was created K.C.M.G. in 1888.
The Register and The Advertiser, Adelaide, 27 December 1919.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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