Just Call Me Mitch
The Life of Mitchell F. HepburnBook - 1991
Those who describe Ontario political leaders as bland or boring do not remember the days of Mitchell Hepburn. Premier of the province from 1934 to 1942, Hepburn was impetuous, exuberant, charismatic, creative, and, for a time, wildly successful as a politician. In this biography John Saywell presents the larger-than-life figure in all his contradictions. Here is a richly detailed account of the man, his career, and his times.
Born in rural southwestern Ontario in 1896, he was first elected as a Liberal in the federal election of 1926. Four years later he was chosen to lead the Liberals in Ontario, and in a stunning victory in 1934, Mitch drove out the tottering Tory government.
These were turbulent times in the province's political life. They saw the deepening of the Depression, the rise of the CCF, impassioned debates over prohibition and separate-school funding, and a bitter strike at General Motors in Oshawa. Mitch was at the centre of it all.
Although a lifelong Liberal, Hepburn maintained a stubborn independence. He and Mackenzie King were on a collision course from the beginning. Over time relations between them deteriorated into open hostility and eventually all-out war, a war which Hepburn ultimately lost. The struggle between them weakened the Liberal party and took a toll on Hepburn's health.
There were other factors at work on his health, of course.
The pressures of politics never kept Mitch from enjoying himself. Saywell describes the late-night excursions to Hull during the Ottawa years, the bull sessions with cronies at Toronto's Kind Edward Hotel, and the numerous extramarital episodes that were never kept very secret. In his private life, as in his public, Mitch was often the victim of his own excesses.
Replete with anecdotes and insights, both personal and political, 'Just call me Mitch' is the irresistible biography of an irrepressible character.