21 June 1845–9 August 1920
Sir Samuel Walker Griffith
"An Australian Federal State, being a Federation of democratic communities, will, of course, be democratic. That is a mere truism. The particular form of democratic tendency that may exhibit itself will depend, not on the formal provisions embodied in the written Constitution, but on the wishes of the people of the Federation".
Sir Samuel Walker Griffith (1845-1920) was born in Merthyr Tydfil, Glamorganshire, Wales, on the 21st June 1845. He migrated with his family to Australia in 1853 when he was eight years old. Sir Samuel was schooled in both Queensland and New South Wales, and was required to move around as his father continually relocated with his work as a church minister. In professional life, Sir Samuel was a distinguished lawyer and judge, as well as a prominent politician, serving twice as Queensland Premier, from 1883-88 and 1890-1893. His legal expertise saw him serve as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Queensland from 1893-1903 which preceded his appointment as Australia's first Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia from 1903-1919.
Considered to be a liberal thinker and reformist, Sir Samuel also placed great importance on the expansion agenda of the British Empire. This in turn saw him passionately support developing Australia (as a part of the British Empire) into a strong and prosperous nation. His efforts in co-drafting the Australian Constitution sees him recognised today as a founding father of federated Australia. Sir Samuel was appointed a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George (GCMG) in 1895 for his political and legal service to both Australia and the Commonwealth (Great Britain). He retired from public life in 1919 and after his many years of public service, he passed away at the Griffith family home Merthyr (Brisbane) on the 9th August 1920, aged 75. Griffith University is named in honour of this remarkable man.
(The opening quote is taken from a speech delivered by Sir Samuel Griffith to Queensland Government in 1896 entitled 'Notes on Australian Federation: Its Nature and Probable Effects'. See the National Library of Australia online catalogue for available copies of the entire speech.