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The doctor is out: Part 2 (4 photos)

In this week's Remember This, Mary Harris continues her look at the life and career of Dr. Leonard J. Simpson

By 1923, Dr. Simpson had become involved with the Masons at the Corinthian Lodge and had joined the Kiwanis Club. Somehow this already very busy man found the time and the will to dive in the local political waters and accept his party’s nomination when it was offered again that year. The newly minted candidate was not so lucky in his first campaign and lost to one of the many Conservatives who swept to power when Howard Ferguson was elected Ontario Premier that year. Instead of being disappointed and disgusted with the whole process, a fire was lit within the doctor and he was already looking towards the next battle.

“I am a good deal fuller of fight than I was yesterday,” Simpson said to a crowd gathered at the Town Hall on election night. “I had said that this would be my last campaign but I have changed my mind. I’m prepared to go in again and win.”

Dr. Simpson and family moved into 47 Collier St. in mid 1927. Soon after settling into the new home, Simpson’s next chance at an M.L.A.’s seat came in 1929, and he had prepared well in the intervening six years. It was an uphill battle as the Liberals had not been able to form a government in Ontario for nearly 25 years, and the Barrie area was traditionally painted Tory blue.

Simpson surprised everyone, including himself, and won his seat by a majority. The seat had been a Conservative one for 39 years and, in fact, this victory was the only one in Ontario where a Liberal was able to displace a Conservative.

In 1934, the popular M.L.A. for Simcoe Centre again won by a landslide, the largest one ever seen in the riding. This time, after a long drought, the Liberals took the premiership in Ontario with Mitchell Hepburn at the helm. Hepburn rewarded his star M.L.A. with something that the former teacher and school board member could revel in – the Cabinet portfolio of Minister of Education.

In the next election, in 1937, Dr. Simpson fought the biggest battle of his political career. He was pitted against the leader of the Conservative Party, another wildly popular local son, Hon. Earl Rowe of Newton Robinson. Dr. Simpson prevailed and won his third straight majority.

By this time, the Simpson family had left their home at the corner of Collier and Owen Streets to be nearer to Queen’s Park in Toronto. Two newlywed couples moved into the vacated home in 1935, Franklin Dutcher, brother to Mrs. Simpson, and his new bride, along with friends of the family, Dr. and Mrs. Harold Smith.

In 1940, friends, family and the local community were stunned when the reports of Dr. Simpson’s sudden death were heard. The doctor and his wife had taken a weekend out of their busy schedule to visit their only son, a military officer, Lieut. Douglas Simpson, where he was training near Picton, Ont. Out for a walk on a sultry August day, Dr. Simpson dropped dead from a heart attack.

He was 58 years old. In the weeks prior to his death, Simpson had not been feeling very well and had been encouraged to take a vacation. He refused, ironically, to take the kind of advice he himself would likely have given any other exhausted patient.

Each week, the Barrie Historical Archive provides BarrieToday readers with a glimpse of the city’s past. This unique column features photos and stories from years gone by and is sure to appeal to the historian in each of us.


Mary Harris

About the Author: Mary Harris

Mary Harris is the Director of History and Research at the Barrie Historical Archive. The Barrie Historical Archive is a free, online archive that centralizes Barrie's historical content.
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