Trade Unionist and Politician
Born in the Somerset village of Winsford on 7th March 1881, his father died shortly afterwards and his mother followed when he was 8. He became a farm worker but later worked in the dockyards and rose to become leader of the dock workers' union in 1911.
In 1922, he was instrumental in the formation of the Transport and General Workers Union and became its first general secretary. He was active leader within the Trades Union Congress, being a member of the general council betweem 1925 and 1940 and serving as chairman in 1937. Although he played a leading role in organising the General Strike of 1926, he was not entirely sympathetic to its aims as he was an advocate of co-operation rather than confrontation between management and workers.
His position within the Trades Union Congress and Britain's then largest union, the Transport and General Workers Union gave him a great deal of political influence within the Labour Party but his formal political career did not start until the outbreak of World War II. In 1940 when he joined Winston Churchill's coalition government and ran the Ministry of Labour. As a trade union leader he was ideally suited to the job of ensuring the co-operation of the unions in the war effort.
With the victory of the Labour Party in the 1945 election he joined the government as Foreign Minister. A staunch anti-communist he helped found NATO in 1949 and was committed to thr cause of strengthening western Europe in the aftermath of the war.
He died in office in 1951.