|12th Prime Minister of Australia
26 April 1939 to 29 August 1941
|second term as Prime Minister of Australia
19 December 1949 to 26 January 1966
Robert Menzies - 'Bob' Menzies or Mr Menzies - was Australia's longest serving Prime Minister, a total of 18 years and five months.
Early in his first period in office, he announced the declaration of the Second World War to the people of Australia. In 1944 he helped start the Liberal Party, which in terms of winning elections, has been the most successful party in federal politics. He presided over Australia's longest period of prosperity and rising living standards this century.
Robert Gordon Menzies was born in Jeparit, Victoria, on 20 December 1894, the fourth of five children of Australian-born parents James Menzies, storekeeper, and his wife Kate, née Sampson. The forebears were Scots on the paternal side and Cornish on the maternal. Kate, of Cornish descent, was the daughter of a miners' union leader.
Though lacking much formal education themselves, Menzies' parents were anxious that their children should have the best that could be afforded. Thus the eldest four-Les, Frank, Belle and Bob-were sent in turn to Ballarat's Humffray Street State School, boarding with their father's redoubtable Scots mother, the widowed Elizabeth. Bob did best, topping the State scholarship examination in 1907, and studying in consequence for two years at Grenville College, a Ballarat private school. It opened the way to another scholarship, which Menzies took at Wesley College, Melbourne. Success there won him an exhibition to the University of Melbourne (LL.B., 1916; LL.M., 1918). He was admitted as a barrister in 1918, built up a highly successful practice and became the youngest Kings Consel in Victoria in 1929.
He was a member of the Victorian State Parliament (1928-34), serving as Deputy Premier and Attorney General (1932-4). Elected to Federal Parliament in 1934, he was immediately appointed Attorney General, until becoming Prime Minister on the eve of World War II in 1939. Reduced to minority government after the 1940 election, he was forced to resign as Prime Minister and party leader in August 1941. He launched a new party, the Liberal Party, in 1944, and won the 1949 election, the first of seven election victories. He retired in January 1966.
Extract from Australian Dictionary of Biography
Sir Robert died on 15 May 1978.
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