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Sir James Douglas

Douglas College is named after Sir James Douglas.


He was an illegitimate, mixed-race kid from a single-parent family raised in a rough area. But he knew a good education was the ticket to success. School was tough, but he stuck it out and gained the skills to land an entry-level job with a multinational corporation.

From that start, he worked his way up the corporate and political ladder. He even earned a knighthood.

That sounds like a modern success story, but it's actually a glimpse at the remarkable life of Sir James Douglas - the father of modern British Columbia.

Born in South America in 1803, Douglas was the son of a Scottish plantation owner and Martha Ann Ritchie, a free black woman. His prospects weren't great, but his father sent him to a prep school in Lanark, Scotland. His natural smarts and education helped Douglas rise to become head of the Hudson Bay Company's (HBC) Pacific region.

He was married to Amelia Connolly, a woman of mixed Cree and Irish-Canadian heritage who happened to be the boss's daughter. Douglas became the first governor of British Columbia and was knighted by order of Queen Victoria upon retiring.

To his critics, Douglas was stingy and a stickler for following HBC instructions. They gave him the nickname "Old Square Toes" for his obsession with proper appearance.

But historian Margaret Ormsby said of him: "A practical man, yet a visionary, Sir James Douglas was a humanitarian. He treated individuals, including Negro slaves and Indians, with a respect that few of his contemporaries showed."

Douglas College is proud to be named for Sir James Douglas.

Who was Sir James Douglas?

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