John Walter Grant MacEwan was born in 1902. His pioneer parents farmed north of Brandon, Manitoba and later at Melfort, Saskatchewan. He attended the Ontario Agricultural College, graduating in 1926. Later he did post-graduate work in agricultural science at Iowa State University. He received a B.S.A. from the University of Toronto, and a M.S. from Iowa State University.
For some years following, Grant MacEwan held senior positions with the University of Saskatchewan and the University of Manitoba. Before taking the post of dean of agriculture at Manitoba, he was professor of animal husbandry and farm superintendent at the Saskatchewan University. Through these years, he became widely known across Western Canada for public service, especially in judging livestock, writing, radio broadcasting, lecturing, and the conduct of fairs and exhibitions.
After 23 years of University work, he resigned and moved to Calgary, mainly to write. However, he became involved in political life and served on Calgary Council for 12 years, nine as an alderman and three years as mayor. From 1955 to 1959 he was a member of the provincial legislature and in the last part of that period was leader of the opposition.
Appointed Lieutenant Governor of Alberta, he took office on January 6, 1966 and retired on July 2, 1974. During these eight and a half years he added a new dimension to this high office, preserving its dignity while at the same time softening some of the traditional formal protocol. With down to earth humour and astounding stamina, Dr. MacEwan fulfilled a staggering number of engagements in every corner of the province, reaching out to touch thousands of Albertans, endearing himself to all.
As an author, Dr. MacEwan was a regular contributor to various farm magazines and newspapers, and saw more than 20 books published. Of these, four were technical: Canadian Animal Husbandry, General Agriculture, Breeds of Livestock in Canada, and Feeding Farm Animals. The remainder had to do with the history and development of Western Canada, Western biography, and conservation. A partial list of these books includes: Between the Red and the Rockies, Agriculture on Parade, Calgary Cavalcade, Hoofprints and Hitching Posts, Tatanga Mani, Harvest of Bread, Sitting Bull – the Years in Canada, and most recently The Best of Grant MacEwan and Alberta Landscapes in collaboration with photographer Rusty MacDonald.
Dr. MacEwan was the recipient of a number of awards and honours including:
- Honorary degree (LL.D.) University of Alberta, 1966
- Honorary degree, Doctor of the University of Calgary, 1967
- Honorary degree (LL.D.) University of Brandon, 1969
- Honorary degree (LL.D.) University of Guelph, 1972
- Honorary degree (LL.D.) University of Saskatchewan, 1974
- B’nai Brith Humanitarian Award 1970
- Canadian Brotherhood Council Award 1972
- Officer of the Order of Canada, O.C. 1974
- Premier’s Award for Excellence 1977