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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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King, Reginald Macdonnell (1869–1955)

by J. C. H. Gill

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

Reginald Macdonnell King (1869-1955), solicitor and politician, was born on 9 April 1869 at South Brisbane, son of Thomas Mulhall King, public servant, and his wife Jane Maria, née MacDonnell. His father was to hold several senior positions in the Queensland Public Service, including under secretary to the Treasury. Educated at the South Brisbane State School and Brisbane Grammar School, Reginald decided to take up law, was articled to A. G. Unmack and admitted to practice on 14 March 1893. After early partnerships with Romido Francis Alwyne Sachse and Harold Morton Rutledge, both of whom went to country practices but retained King as their town agent, he formed a partnership on 1 January 1911 with his former articled clerk George Roydon Howard Gill which survived for the rest of King's professional career.

Elected to the Coorparoo Shire Council in 1894, he remained a member until the shire was absorbed in Greater Brisbane and was chairman nine times from 1898. With a considerable reputation as an authority on local government law, he served as president of the Local Authorities' Association of Queensland and acted as secretary and solicitor to the association for some eighteen years until 1929. He also had some part-time semi-governmental service on wages boards and on the Victoria Bridge Board.

In 1918 King contested unsuccessfully the rural seat of Logan in the Legislative Assembly for the National Party. On 9 October 1920 he stood again and won. He became prominent and was appointed deputy leader of the Opposition in the new United Party of 1924 with A. E. Moore as his leader. When, in 1929, Labor lost power for the first time since 1915, King became deputy premier to Moore with the portfolios of public instruction and public works. The Moore government won power just as the great Depression swept the world and it was defeated in 1932. Owing to the strains of office in a period of great stress for all, King was seriously ill in the latter part of 1932 but recovered and again became deputy leader of the Opposition. A redistribution of 1935 turned his once rural seat of Logan into a collection of Brisbane suburbs and King was immediately defeated. He did not contest the seat again.

He resumed practice with Gill and his son Stephen in King and Gill, retired in 1951 and died in Brisbane on 7 September 1955. After a state funeral with Church of England rites, he was cremated. He was survived by his Irish-born wife, Helena Maria Hewson, whom he had married in Brisbane on 7 September 1895, and by two sons and two daughters.

A useful citizen, a sound lawyer and a creditable legislator, King was a sincere and kindly friend. Despite opportunities, he never used his official positions for his personal enrichment; he was that now rare being, an honest gentleman.

Select Bibliography

  • S. Stephenson (compiler), Annals of the Brisbane Grammar School, 1869-1922 (Brisb, 1923)
  • C. A. Bernays, Queensland — our Seventh Political Decade 1920-1930 (Syd, 1931)
  • C. L. Lack (ed), Three Decades of Queensland Political History, 1929-1960 (Brisb, 1962)
  • JRHSQ, 19 (1971-72), no 3
  • Courier Mail (Brisbane), 8 Sept 1955.

Citation details

J. C. H. Gill, 'King, Reginald Macdonnell (1869–1955)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 29 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

View the front pages for Volume 9

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