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Crampton, Walter Russell (1877–1938)

by John Brian Armstrong

This entry is from the Australian Dictionary of Biography

Walter Russell Crampton (1877-1938), by unknown photographer, c1924

Walter Russell Crampton (1877-1938), by unknown photographer, c1924

Brisbane City Council Library, BCC-B120-32256

Walter Russell Crampton (1877-1938), trade unionist and journalist, was born on 3 July 1877 at Redfern, Sydney, son of Walter James Crampton, boot finisher, and his wife Sarah, née Philips. Leaving school at 14, he humped his swag to western New South Wales and became a member of the Slaughtermen's Union in April 1892. At 21 he found work in a Townsville, Queensland, meatworks and on 2 February 1903 married Amy Maria Beadle. Soon afterwards they moved to Brisbane.

Crampton became a full-time organizer for the Australasian Federated Butchers' Employees' Union in 1908. On regular visits to the north he was able to secure the abolition of contract work and establishment of an industrial type of union organization with a workers' board of control in each plant. According to V. G. Childe, 'When the managers refused Crampton admission to the works he splashed across the tidal flats and crawled in through the thick jungle'. Energetic, audacious and a socialist militant in close communion with Ernie Lane, he was committed to reforming both the political and industrial wings of the Queensland labour movement. His organizing skills assisted other unions: in 1911 he established the southern district branch of the Amalgamated Workers' Association and organized Mackay in the sugar workers' strike. President of the Brisbane District Council of the Australian Labor Federation in 1912 and a member of the central political executive in 1910-13, he was defeated in 1912 for the Legislative Assembly seat of Windsor, then became secretary of the Queensland branch of his union. He served as a foundation director of the Daily Standard, and of the Worker in 1913-16.

Crampton resigned from the union late in 1914 to become industrial writer on the Daily Standard under the pseudonym 'Jack Aster'. He was still a member of the Australian Journalists' Association when he died but his career in the profession was not continuous. Appointed as State director of labour in August 1915, he successfully reorganized his department in accordance with a new Act but resigned in 1917 to become general manager of the Daily Standard and stayed for ten years.

In 1916-19 he was a government representative on the university senate and chaired the Returned Maimed and Wounded Soldiers' Fund during the war. Appointed to the Legislative Council in 1917, he worked for its abolition in 1922. He was an alderman of the Brisbane City Council in 1922-24, deputized frequently for the mayor and led a sub-committee on municipal abattoirs visiting Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide in 1924.

In the 'Greater Brisbane' election of 1925, Crampton did not stand, probably as a protest against proposals for paid aldermen. He bought shares in Perkins & Co. Ltd, brewers, became a director of the company (chairman 1932), and probably shared the management of hotels held in his wife's name. He had resigned from the Daily Standard in 1927. The couple were at Redland Bay in 1929-34 and in the Hotel Brisbane, Wharf Street, from 1935.

Elected unopposed for Paddington in a 1935 Brisbane City Council election, Crampton became chairman of the combined health and town planning committee and served on other committees dealing with works, water, sewerage and electricity. His principal achievement was the improvement of milk supply and distribution. Heavily built, he died of heart disease on 20 October 1938 and was cremated with Anglican rites. His wife, three sons and a daughter survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • F. J. Brewer and R. Dunn, Sixty-Six Years of Municipal Government (Brisb, 1925)
  • D. J. Murphy (ed), Labor in Politics (Brisb, 1975)
  • Courier Mail (Brisbane), 21 Oct 1938
  • Worker (Brisbane), 25 Oct 1938.

Citation details

John Brian Armstrong, 'Crampton, Walter Russell (1877–1938)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://labouraustralia.anu.edu.au/biography/crampton-walter-russell-5806/text9831, accessed 21 November 2017.

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