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Many communities have individuals born in their limits who go on to great success. Grenfell is one of those communities, with the pride of having a premier come from the community. Not just any premier, but one of the best premier’s the province ever had.
Born on May 13, 1886 in Grenfell, William John’s father, who was also named John, moved to Grenfell in 1882 to be the railway section foreman.
He would leave school at the age of 15 and begin working at a bank, followed by a time working for the Department of Telephones. When the First World War broke out, he enlisted and served in the Calvary until he was wounded in September of 1918.
When he returned, he studied law in Grenfell under G.C. Neff and moved to Windthorst to set up an insurance company.
In 1921, he delved into politics and ran in the general election in the province under the Liberal banner. He would win and serve many cabinet positions. In 1935, after being re-elected in 1925 and 1929 and 1934, he was elected as the successor to Premier Gardiner who left provincial politics. This made him the premier of the province in the midst of The Great Depression. As premier, he refused to run a budget deficit and he increased spending through a sales tax. In addition, he passed legislation to form credit unions and increase labor standards. He also increased funding to pensions, education and expanded treatment in the province to a number of diseases like polio.
He would be re-elected as premier in 1938 but would lose the premier position in 1944 to Tommy Douglas. He remained as the Leader of the Opposition until 1946 when he resigned as leader.
In 1951, he became the first Saskatchewan-born Lt. Governor, a post he served until 1958. Upon his retirement, Premier Douglas introduced special legislation to provide Patterson with a pension as a thank you for his years of service.
Patterson remained in retirement until he passed away in 1976.