Sir Byron Edmund Walker
Sir Byron Edmund Walker, banker (b in Seneca Township, Haldimand County, Canada 14 Oct 1848; d at Toronto 27 Mar 1924). After leaving school at the age of 13, Walker entered his uncle's private banking business in Hamilton as a discount clerk. In 1868 he joined the CANADIAN BANK OF COMMERCE, becoming general manager in 1886 and president in 1907.
He demonstrated impressive organizational talent in developing the first set of written regulations for departmental division in banking. Indeed, Walker was considered a genius in financial affairs and a leading founder of the modern banking system. He wrote the History of Canadian Banking (1896) along with numerous other pamphlets and articles. Together with other bankers, Walker helped devise innovative measures regarding the type of security farmers and small businessmen could pledge without jeopardizing the interests of depositors. These schemes would allow the chartered banks to supplement the often inadequate credit facilities offered particularly in the developing West.
Perhaps his greatest public notice came during the reciprocity debate and the federal election of 1911. Walker was a Liberal but he opposed the RECIPROCITY agreement with the United States negotiated by the government of Sir Wilfrid LAURIER. As an ardent IMPERIALIST and a defender of maintaining close ties with Great Britain, Walker had supported the contributionists in the NAVAL SERVICE ACT debate of 1910, and in that year he became one of the founders of The Round Table Quarterly, which promoted the discussion of imperial affairs. He opposed reciprocity on the grounds that it would weaken the British connection and strengthen the forces of CONTINENTALISM. After the Laurier Liberals and the trade agreement had been defeated, Walker was part of a group of dissident Liberals that advised the new prime minister, Robert BORDEN, on cabinet formation.
A man of wide interests, he had an abiding concern for the humanities and was very involved with the University of Toronto. He served as trustee and governor from 1897 until 1910; chairman of the board from 1910 until 1923; and chancellor from 1923 until 1924. Walker was founder and first president of the CHAMPLAIN SOCIETY from 1905 until his death, and he helped found the Toronto Art Gallery and the Royal Ontario Museum. In 1901 he was elected to the board of the Toronto Conservatory of Music and was honorary president of the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir from 1900 until 1924. He was president of the Royal Canadian Institute and a fellow of the Royal Society.