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Tucker, Percy John Robert (Perc) (1919–1980)

by Anne Smith

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (MUP), 2002

Percy John Robert (Perc) Tucker (1919-1980), public servant, politician and mayor, was born on 5 December 1919 at Rockhampton, Queensland, son of Percy Clifford Tucker, an artist and furniture salesman, and his wife Beatrice, née Guthrie, both Queensland born. Educated at Rockhampton State High School and Rockhampton Technical College, Perc began work in 1937 as a clerk in the Department of Public Works, Brisbane. Next year he returned to Rockhampton to the office of the Deputy Registrar of Titles, in which he became a draftsman. He joined the Royal Australian Air Force on 6 December 1940, but failed aircrew training and was discharged in January 1941. Enlisting in the Citizen Military Forces on 5 November that year, he transferred to the Australian Imperial Force in March 1943. A corporal in the 42nd Infantry Battalion, he carried out intelligence duties in Papua (1942-43) and New Guinea (1943), and on Bougainville (1944-45).

At Holy Trinity Church, Mackay, on 10 June 1944 Tucker married with Anglican rites Isabel May Campbell, a hairdresser. Following his discharge from the A.I.F. on 5 November 1945, he resumed his job at Rockhampton. In 1948-55 he served part time with his old battalion and rose to temporary captain (1954) in the C.M.F. He transferred to the Townsville branch of the titles office in 1955 and was soon promoted to second-in-charge. In 1956 he joined the Australian Labor Party. Four years later he won the seat of Townsville North in the Legislative Assembly. He was elected deputy-leader of the parliamentary party in 1966 and leader on 1 July 1974. In opposition to (Sir) Johannes Bjelke-Petersen's government, Tucker performed well and earned respect as a hard-working politician. On 23 October 1974 he challenged Bjelke-Petersen to go to the polls; at the ensuing election, on 7 December, Tucker lost his seat.

In 1976 Tucker was elected mayor of Townsville. The A.L.P. team won an 8-3 majority on the City Council. In the 1979 election 'Tucker's Ten' secured every council position, with Tucker capturing 60 per cent of the popular vote for mayor. Under his leadership, projects related to roads, drains, sewerage and water-reticulation were undertaken, and work began on the second stage of the Ross River dam. The council was responsible for the design and building of the Townsville Civic Theatre, the development of the Flinders Mall and the planning of an art gallery. Despite his heavy workload, Tucker involved himself in a wide range of community affairs. No event 'was too small to be favoured by his mayoral attendance'.

Although he was regarded as a reliable 'party' man, Tucker retained his independence. When Sir John Kerr visited Townsville in July 1976, Tucker welcomed him officially, despite widespread Labor Party hostility towards the governor-general. On a later occasion he resigned (briefly) as leader of the municipal wing of the Labor caucus in protest at the decision to disallow the loading of coal at the local port. He died of myocardial infarction on 20 August 1980 at Townsville and was cremated with Presbyterian forms. His wife, their daughter and two of their three sons survived him. The Perc Tucker Regional Gallery was named (1981) after him.

Select Bibliography

  • Parliamentary Debates (Queensland), 17 Apr 1968, p 3058, 19 Aug 1969, p 37, 5 Sept 1972, p 359, 23 Oct 1974, p 1546, 26 Aug 1980, p 152
  • Townsville Daily Bulletin, 29 Mar, 8 July 1976, 2 Apr 1979, 21, 25 Aug 1980
  • private information.

Citation details

Anne Smith, 'Tucker, Percy John Robert (Perc) (1919–1980)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/tucker-percy-john-robert-perc-11887/text21289, published in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 1 September 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (MUP), 2002

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