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Sir Littleton Ernest Groom (1867–1936)

Littleton Ernest Groom, by Bain Studio Ltd, 1910s

Littleton Ernest Groom, by Bain Studio Ltd, 1910s

National Library of Australia, 23432154

Sir Littleton Ernest Groom, M.P. for Darling Downs, a former Minister of the Commonwealth and Speaker in the House of Representatives, died at Canberra yesterday from a heart attack following a week's illness.

Immediately news of Sir Littleton Groom's death was received at Parliament House the House of Representatives adjourned until Tuesday next.

Members, many of whom had not been aware that Sir Littleton was ill, were shocked by the news.

A State funeral has been arranged. The burial will take place on Tuesday afternoon in the churchyard at St. John's Church, Canberra, with which Sir Littleton Groom was closely associated.

Both the Senate and the House of Representatives will meet at 3 o'clock on Tuesday afternoon, and will adjourn immediately after motions of sympathy have been passed. A memorial service, which will be open to the public, will then be held in the King's Hall at Parliament House. The burial will take place immediately after this service.

Sir Littleton Groom's death leaves only two members of the first Commonwealth Parliament—Senator Sir George Pearce and Mr. W. M. Hughes—in the Federal Houses.

Sir Littleton Groom had been confined to his bed at the Hotel Canberra for a week, but his condition had not caused alarm until yesterday. He was attended by two doctors and a specialist last night, and two special nurses were being sent from Sydney by plane to attend him.

Sir Littleton Groom was born at Toowoomba, Queensland, on April 22, 1867, and was educated at North Toowoomba Public School, Toowoomba Grammar School, and Melbourne University. He was a brilliant scholar, and won many prizes. After taking his M.A. and M.LI, degrees, he was admitted to the Bar. He proceeded to Queensland immediately afterwards, and took an active part in the movement to establish a University for Queensland. Later, when students were coached in Brisbane for the Melbourne University degrees, he lectured on Constitutional law and equity. He was secretary of the Queensland Extension Movement.

Sir Littleton Groom's father, Mr. W. H. Groom, who was the proprietor of the "Toowoomba Chronicle," represented Toowoomba in the Queensland Parliament continuously from 1862 to 1901, when he transferred his attention to the Federal Parliament. He was elected to represent the Darling Downs electorate in the first Commonwealth Parliament, but he died before taking his seat in the House. His son, Littleton, won the byelection, and, except for one term, continued to represent the electorate in the House of Representatives up till his death. In 1903 he was appointed a member of the Royal Commission on the Bonuses for Manufactures Bill. He was also a member of the select committee on the Electoral Act Administration in 1904, and of the Royal Commission on the Navigation Bill, from 1904 to 1906. He was Minister for Home Affairs from July, 1905, to October, 1906, when he became Attorney-General, until November, 1908. He later held the following portfolios: Minister for External Affairs from June, 1909, to April, 1910; Minister for Trade and Customs from June, 1913, to September, 1914; Honorary Minister from February to November, 1917; vice-president of the Executive Council from November, 1917, to March, 1918; Minister for Works and Railways from March, 1918, to December, 1921; Acting Attorney-General from April, 1918, to August, 1919; Attorney-General from December, 1921, to December, 1925, when he resigned the portfolio; and Minister for Trade and Customs and Minister for Health from May 26 to June 13, 1924.

He was senior delegate for the Commonwealth at the League of Nations in 1924, and was chairman of the First Committee of the Fifth Assembly of the League. He was created K.C.M.G. in January, 1924.

Sir Littleton Groom was Speaker of the House of Representatives from January 13, 1926, until the expiration of the 11th Parliament in 1929.

Claiming that he was following the precedent exercised by the Speaker of the House of Commons, Sir Littleton, on September 10, 1929, refrained from voting on an amendment moved by Mr. W. M. Hughes on the Maritime Industries Bill. The Bruce-Page Government was defeated by 35 votes to 34, and resigned. Ministerial supporters claimed that Sir Littleton Groom should have voted, as his vote would have evened the numbers and provided the opportunity for the Chairman of Committees to exercise his casting vote.

At the general election held during the following month. Sir Littleton Groom was obliged to stand as an Independent candidate, and was opposed by the National party organisation. He was defeated by the National candidate, Mr. A. C. Morgan. The election resulted in the return of the Scullin Labour Government.

Sir Littleton Groom, as an independent candidate, regained the seat at the general election in 1931. In August, 1933, he was admitted to membership of the United Australia party organisation at Toowoomba. Shortly afterwords he was admitted to the Parliamentary party. He was Chairman of the Bankruptcy Legislation Committee from 1932 to 1936.

Sir Littleton Groom was a prominent member of the Church of England. He was the national lay president of the Church of England Men's Society.

He was closely associated with the affairs of the Canberra Grammar School, the Canberra University College, and other local institutions.

He is survived by Lady Groom, who was in Canberra during his last illness, and one daughter, Mrs. Pearce, whose husband is a master at the Southport School, Queensland. Another daughter died about 10 years ago.

Original publication

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Citation details

'Groom, Sir Littleton Ernest (1867–1936)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 18 July 2024.

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