James Lougheed was born in Brampton, Ontario to Irish Protestant parents. He grew up there, and went to school at the University of Toronto, obtaining a law degree in 1881. He then moved west following the Canadian Pacific Railway, stopping in Winnipeg, Medicine Hat, and the Northwest Territories, before settling in Calgary. He arrived in Calgary in 1883. There Lougheed started a legal practice in real estate and transportation law, later in partnership with future Prime Minister R.B. Bennett and he was one of the founders of the Law Society of Alberta. He also invested in real estate, and opened a brokerage firm.
Lougheed and his wife Isabella, who came from an influential family, often entertained important guests in their elegant home, “Beaulieu” in south Calgary.
Isabella’s connections in the community helped Lougheed gain influence in business, and later, in government. When Isabella’s uncle, a Senator, died in 1889, Lougheed was appointed to fill his seat in Ottawa. Lougheed was a surprise choice, given that he was only 35 years old at the time, and had little political experience outside being a member of the Conservative Party and campaigning for Sir John A. Macdonald. Lougheed remained in that position for thirty-six years until his death in 1925.
Lougheed achieved greater representation for the interests of Albertans through his role as a senator. When the province of Alberta was being created, he was vocal about the provisions required by Albertans including the provision of mineral rights for the province. Shortly thereafter, Lougheed became the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate until the Conservatives took power in 1911. He then became the Leader of the Government in the Senate, and a Minister Without Portfolio under Sir Robert Borden’s government. As a reward for his service as the Chairman of the Military Hospitals Commission, Lougheed was knighted in 1916 by George V, and remains the only Albertan who has ever received this prestigious title.
Between 1918 and 1921, Lougheed represented the West in a variety of roles, including Minister of Veterans Affairs, Minister of Mines, Minister of the Interior, and Superintendent-General of Indian Affairs. When the Conservatives lost the election in 1921, Lougheed returned to his position as the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate until he succumbed to pneumonia in 1925.
Lougheed was an important businessman, lawyer, and strong advocate for Alberta. He believed that Alberta should have control over its natural resources, which his grandson, Peter Lougheed, continued to advocate for when he became premier in 1971.