Aberhart, William

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Aberhart, William

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  • Aberhart, "Bible Bill"

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      Dates of existence

      1878-1943

      History

      William ("Bible Bill") Aberhart was born December 30, 1878 near Seaforth, Ontario; he was the son of William and Louisa (Pepper) Aberhart. He studied at Mitchell Model School, Chatham Business College, Seaforth Collegiate Institute and the Ontario Normal School in Hamilton, Ontario. In 1899, he taught at Morris School, near Wingham, Ontario. In 1901, he moved to Brantford, Ontario and taught at Central Public School; he was appointed principal of Central Public School in 1905. He was active in Brantford's Zion Presbyterian Church and for a time planned on entering the Presbyterian ministry. He married Janet "Jessie" Flatt (1878-1964) on July 29, 1902; they had two daughters, Khona Louise (Cooper) (1903-1998) and Ola Janette (MacNutt) (1905-2000). He earned a Bachelor of Arts from Queen's University in 1911; he accomplished this by correspondence beginning in 1907.

      The Aberhart family moved to Calgary, Alberta in 1910, as Aberhart had accepted an offer from the Calgary School Board to become principal of Mount Royal College beginning in the spring of 1910. However, the school was not ready when he arrived so he became principal of Alexandra Public School. In the fall of 1910, with Mount Royal still not ready, he became principal of Victoria School. When ready, he did become principal of Mount Royal School and then in 1913 became the principal of King Edward School. From 1915 to 1935, Aberhart was principal of Crescent Heights High School.

      He taught bible classes at Trinity Methodist Church until 1916 and attended and taught classes at Grace Presbyterian Church until 1912. The Aberhart family then attended Wesley Methodist Church and Westbourne Baptist Church where Aberhart was eventually recognized as a lay minister and baptized on May 2, 1920. By 1918, Aberhart's bible classes we so popular and well attended, the classes were renamed the Calgary Prophetic Bible Conference. In 1925, he was appointed Dean of the newly established Calgary Prophetic Bible Institute. Also beginning in 1925, Aberhart's Sunday afternoon bible lectures for the Calgary Prophetic Bible Conference were broadcast over the radio; these became known as "Back-to-the-Bible Hour." In 1929, Aberhart established the Bible Institute Baptist Church.

      Beginning in 1932, influenced by personal experiences brought on by the Depression, Aberhart began to give serious thought and study to the social credit theories espoused by Major C.H. Douglas. In 1933, Aberhart began giving lectures on these theories, soon forming a Social Credit Study Group; other study groups formed across Calgary and the province. Aberhart organized the Douglas Social Credit League in 1933 (later the Alberta Social Credit League).

      Initially trying to work with United Farmers of Alberta to implement social credit theories, when this failed, Aberhart organized the social credit movement into a political party, and this Alberta Social Credit Party won the majority of seat in the 1935 provincial election. As leader of the Social Credit Party, even though he did not run, Aberhart was sworn in as Premier and Minister of Education on September 3; on November 3, 1935, a by-election was held in the electoral district of Okotoks-High River which Aberhart won by acclamation. On September 5, 1937, he was appointed Attorney General. He was reelected in 1940 for electoral district of Calgary.

      Suffering from illness, Aberhart and his wife traveled to Vancouver, British Columbia in April of 1943 to visit their daughters. William Aberhart died May 23, 1943 and was buried in Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Burnaby, British Columbia.

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