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Edwin John (Ted) Hook (1910–1990)

by Rosemary Jennings

This article was published:

Edwin John (Ted) Hook (1910-1990), lawyer and public servant, was born on 3 April 1910 at Forest Lodge, Sydney, eldest of three sons of Edwin John Hook, printer, and his wife Emily Jane, née Brown, both English born. Young Edwin was educated at Summer Hill Public School and (on a bursary) at Fort Street Boys’ High School (dux 1926). A reference from a master commended him as `a lad of exceptional all round ability … exceedingly well behaved, industrious in habits and of high moral character’.

In February 1927 Hook was appointed to the New South Wales Department of the Attorney-General and of Justice as a junior clerk in the Prothonotary’s Office. Attending evening classes at the University of Sydney (BA, 1930; LL B, 1933), he gained first-class honours and the university medal in law, and shared the John George Dalley prize. He was admitted to the Bar on 26 May 1933 and as a solicitor on 27 May 1938. While working as a law clerk with Minter, Simpson & Co., he had married Valerie Norma Fowler Macmillan, a clerk, on 31 July 1937 at St Andrew’s Church of England, Summer Hill; they were to remain childless.

On 29 January 1942 Hook enlisted in the Citizen Military Forces. He was 5 ft 9½ ins (177 cm) tall, dark complexioned, with dark brown hair and brown eyes. Posted to the 130th General Transport Company, he transferred to the Australian Imperial Force in September and was promoted to sergeant in October. From December he was attached to Alf Conlon’s research section at Land Headquarters, Melbourne. Discharged on 7 April 1943, he was appointed to the Commonwealth Office of Education, Sydney. He was secretary of the Universities Commission in 1946-50, then worked as assistant-director, Commonwealth Office of Education, until 1951 when he was appointed to the Attorney-General’s Department, Canberra. A photograph of the older Hook shows a steady, reticent gaze behind heavy glasses, thinning hair, a no-nonsense mouth and resolute chin.

Hook advanced steadily and on 3 February 1964 was promoted to secretary of the department, succeeding Sir Kenneth Bailey. He served four attorneys-general, Sir Garfield Barwick, (Sir) Billy Snedden, (Sir) Nigel Bowen and Tom Hughes, and had been associated with major legislation including important amendments in 1960 to the Crimes Act (1914-59), and the Marriage Act (1961). In 1967 he was appointed CBE. A former colleague recalled his `level-headedness, tolerance, politeness, common sense’ and his `fairness’ and `modesty’. When not working, he enjoyed a round of golf at the Royal Canberra Golf Club; gardening, too, afforded a change from the demands of office. Excessive conscientiousness resulted in a stress-related illness that forced his retirement on 2 February 1970. Always considerate of others, he requested that, instead of a retirement present, the E. J. Hook Trust Fund be established to provide prizes for able young lawyers.

Ted Hook and his wife moved to the Gold Coast, Queensland; they relaxed with lawn bowls and took several overseas trips. Survived by his wife, he died on 2 April 1990 at Benowa and was cremated. Barwick paid tribute to a `very sound lawyer’ and a `good and reliable friend’. Others remembered him as `hard-working and intelligent’, an `essentially decent person, highly principled and fair to his staff and respected by everyone’.

Select Bibliography

  • Australia Law Journal , vol 64, no 7, 1990, p 446
  • Canberra Times, 5 Apr 1990, p 7
  • series B883, item NX141374 (National Archives of Australia)
  • private information.

Citation details

Rosemary Jennings, 'Hook, Edwin John (Ted) (1910–1990)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2007, accessed online 15 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (Melbourne University Press), 2007

View the front pages for Volume 17

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