YOUNG, Walter D.

Author Tags: Politics

"Walter D. Young, Professor of Political Science at the University of Victoria, died March 10, 1984 at the age of 51. A gifted teacher, scholar, and administrator, Professor Young served on the faculty of The University of British Columbia for 11 years. Walter Young was born in Winnipeg in 1933, moving to Victoria at an early age. He received his B.A. in honours English and History from UBC in 1955 and as a Rhodes Scholar, an M.A. degree from Oxford in 1957. Upon his return to Canada, he took teaching positions at the Canadian Services College, Royal Roads, United College in Winnipeg, and in 1959-1960 in the Department of Political Science at the University of Manitoba. He continued his graduate studies at the University of Toronto, receiving a doctorate in 1965. Professor Young came to UBC in 1962 and served as Head of the Department of Political Science from October 1969 until his resignation in June 1973, when he took a position at the University of Victoria. Walter Young contributed numerous talents to a variety of departmental, faculty and university enterprises. He was one of the organizers of the Arts I programme and, with Margaret Prang, launched the major academic journal dealing with the history, politics and society of British Columbia, B.C. Studies. He was elected to the committee on long-range prospects of the University, and served on the Board of Directors of the UBC Press. In 1969 he was elected to the Senate by the Joint Faculties. Professor Young's research interests focussed on the CCF party, on which he wrote the definitive history. He devoted a life-long interest to the NDP party in this province and in the country. Never a narrow specialist, he personified the scholar whose concerns bridge the divisions between the humanities, history, and the social sciences. He was an active participant in NDP party affairs, and in 1974 chaired the University Government Committee whose report to the Minister of Education led to the creation of the Universities Council. Walter Young was a superb teacher, not only as a lecturer, but in his devotion of time to the intellectual development of his students. He was acknowledged as one of Canada's outstanding political scientists. He served as president of the Canadian Political Science Association in 1980-81 and in many other ways contributed to the development of the discipline in this country. The Walter D. Young Prize for the outstanding student in the area of Canadian politics has been established in his honour." [UBC SPECIAL COLLECTIONS ARCHIVES]

Review of the author's work by BC Studies:
The Anatomy of a Party
The Reins of Power: Governing British Columbia


The Anatomy of a Party: The National C.C.F., 1932-1961 (University of Toronto Press, 1969 328 p.)

Democracy and Discontent: Progressivism, Socialism and Social Credit in the Canadian West (Frontenac Library, Ryerson Press, 1969 122 p.)

The Reins of Power (D & M, 1983); co-author

[BCBW 2003] "Politics"

Photo from BC Studies

Walter Douglas Young 1933-1984

In the death of Walter D. Young on March 1 I, 1984, British Columbia lost an outstanding scholar and teacher and an influential citizen. Walter was born in Winnipeg but moved to Victoria as a small child and received his early education there. He began his university work at the old Victoria College, subsequently graduating from the University of British Columbia in 1955 in honours history and English. Awarded the Rhodes scholarship for the province, he then studied politics, philosophy and economics at Oxford for two years. After teaching at Royal Roads Military College in Victoria for a year he accepted an appointment at United College in Winnipeg just in time to become a participant in the famous "Crowe case." True to his belief that principles of academic freedom were being violated in that dispute, he resigned, in company with several other members of the faculty, although academic positions were scarce at the time and he had a family to support. After a year of teaching at the University of Manitoba he went to Toronto to study for the Ph.D degree which he received in 1965. In the meantime, in 1962, he had been appointed to the Department of Political Science at the University of British Columbia, and later served as head of that department from 1969 to 1973. He moved then to the University of Victoria as chairman of the Department of Political Science there, a position he held until 1978. In that year he was elected president of the Canadian Political Science Association.

Walter was a social democrat and a Canadian nationalist, and his lively interest in Canadian politics was informed by a desire to understand the conditions under which democratic socialism had developed and might flourish in an independent Canada. These concerns were reflected in the subject of his major scholarly work, The Anatomy of a Party: The National CCF 1932-1961 (1969), a volume which analyzes the tensions within a social movement which was, at the same time a political party and clarifies the role of the party bureaucracy in such a party. As the definitive study of the CCF, it is assured an enduring place in Canadian political studies. Like many of his contemporaries in the social sciences and perhaps earlier than most of them, Walter grasped the significance of regional studies for an understanding of Canadian politics. Thousands of students have enjoyed and profited from his excellent discussion of western protest movements, Democracy and Discontent: Progressivism, Socialism and Social Credit in the Canadian West (1969; sec. ed. 1978). In addition to these books, he was the author of more than twenty scholarly articles in various journals and collections of essays.

An awareness of the value of regional studies led Walter and the present writer to collaborate in the founding of BC Studies in 1969, in the hope that it would encourage scholarly studies of the society of British Columbia, past and present, and make that work more accessible both within the academic community and among a wider public. It would be inappropriate for me to judge our success in achieving these objectives, but I can readily testify that whatever merit the journal possessed during our nearly fifteen years of easy and intellectually stimulating editorial co-operation was due in large measure to Walter's enthusiasm for the enterprise, his wide knowledge of the life of this province, and his unfailing patience and good judgment.

Walter's last major academic endeavour began in 1978 when he headed a team of five University of Victoria political scientists which received a $750,000 grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada for a five-year study of B.C. politics in the decade of the seventies. The first book produced by the "B.C. Project," as it was popularly known, was Reins of Power, published in 1983; a further volume is scheduled for publication later this year.

Walter had little affinity with social scientists who communicate only with other professionals in the groves of academe, and he was always engaged in activities which expressed his ideas and convictions before a larger audience. His superb skills as a university teacher were well recognized by the several generations of students with whom he shared his enthusiasm for Canadian politics. At UBC he was one of the organizers of "Arts I," an experimental liberal arts program for first-year students. He was always generous in the time he devoted to his students and in his encouragement of their intellectual growth. He was the initiator and for several years the director of the Legislative Internship Program, which takes a group of graduating students in the social sciences from the three provincial universities to Victoria every spring for five months to participate in the administrative work of the legislature. All of Walter's persuasive powers were needed to convince politicians on both sides of the House that the program was worthwhile, but once established it was soon well accepted. From 1973 to 1975 he served on the Legal Services Commission of B.C. For more than a decade he was a member of the board of the Cedar Lodge Society for brain damaged children in Cobble Hill and was instrumental in helping to establish Skeleem Village for disabled adults.
There can be few people who derive as much pleasure from writing or do it as easily as Walter did. In addition to his more academic books and articles he wrote reviews and commentaries for numerous publications, including Le Devoir, The Financial Post, Canadian Forum and the local newspapers in Vancouver and Victoria, and he was a frequent commentator on public affairs on radio and television. In recent years he contributed a regular and widely read column on social and political issues as seen from Victoria to Vancouver Magazine. He had an enviable ability to turn out a perceptive, witty and polished piece in an hour or two. I'll his work for the popular press he demonstrated that he possessed the liberal education he so frequently urged his students to acquire. For eight years (1974-1982) he enjoyed acting as one of the judges in the annual Eaton's Book Award for the best books relating to British Columbia.
It was more than once suggested to Walter that he should run for public office under the NDP banner. He never did so, although he worked closely with Tom Berger in his 1968 campaign for the leadership of the provincial NDP, and from 1973 to 1975 was an advisor on education to the NDP government. He played a major role in drafting the University Act, under which the three public universities in B.C. are governed, and which established the Universities Council. Walter was by nature a moderate, and his scholarly scepticism further prevented him from being an uncritical partisan. Typically, he dedicated his book on the CCF to his former English teacher at Victoria College and friend of many years, Roger Bishop, who describes himself as an old-fashioned Tory. Walter had many friends and admirers who did not share his political views, and this was manifested in the recognition accorded him the day after his death by the British Columbia Legislature in a tribute moved by the Social Credit Attorney-General Brian Smith, a life-long friend, and seconded by the Leader of the Opposition, Dave Barrett of the NDP, who had rarely agreed with Walter in policy debates within the party.

Walter's untimely death after a courageous struggle of nearly two years against a brain tumour leaves a tremendous gap in the academic and public life of British Columbia and in the lives of his colleagues and friends. We will not soon forget his gift for friendship, his delight in intellectual debate, his love for the landscape and especially for sailing in the coastal waters of this province, or the humour that was always so close to the surface right to the end. He is survived by his wife, Beryl, and three children, Jeremy, Margot and Brian. The departments of political science at the University of British Columbia and at the University of Victoria are each establishing scholarships in Walter's honour, to be awarded for excellence in the study of Canadian politics.

By MARGARET PRANG [BC Studies, 1984]