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Born on a farm in Haldimand County near Dunnville, Ontario, James came to Guelph at the age of 15 years having never attended high school. His father was 54 years old when he was born, so wanted him to have an early start. He lived in residence while at OAC and got through first year on $150.00. At the time, Professor George Creelman was president. Professors of note include Squirrel, Day, Reed, Reynolds and Unwin. James and his friends attended church regularly. He met his wife, Lillian Harvie (from Orillia), who was attending MAC, at one of the parties he and other students organized. Following graduation, he briefly went back to the farm, then started a dairy business that served Dunnville and the Niagara peninsula. The dairy business lasted over 50 years. James was elected to serve the town council at the age of 21 and he served as Mayor for two years. He was also on County Council for several years during which he encouraged the council to improve the local roads. James was elected to represent Haldimand-Norfolk at the provincial legislature in 1951 under the government of Premier Leslie Frost. He first served as Minister of Highways for about three years, then moved on to serve as Treasurer of Ontario under Premiers John Robarts and William Davis for eight years. During this time, rapid growth was taking place on university campuses and the University of Guelph was no exception. James introduced the provincial Sales Tax and supported the Robert Saunder’s change-over from 25 to 60 cycle at Ontario Hydro while he was Chairman of the Niagara Parks Commission (NPC) for 17 years. He negotiated the Niagara Parks Act that allowed the NPC to keep its revenue and be self-sustaining. During his tenure as Chairman of the NPC, he entertained many dignitaries, including Queen Elizabeth and the Queen Mother. James recalls the automobile as one of the greatest changes during his lifetime. As strong supporters of higher education, the Allans set up a generous scholarship at Guelph. James praises the University of Guelph for its many successes built on its founding colleges.
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