Fellows of Senate

The Rt Hon Sir Samuel Walker Griffith GCMG

An early graduate of the University of Sydney (BA 1863, MA 1870), the Rt Hon Sir Samuel Walker Griffith was a Fellow of Senate from 1904 to 1919.


MA Sydney
Fellow of Senate: 1904-1919

His early days

Samuel Walker Griffith was born in Wales on 21 June 1845, second son of Rev Edward Griffith (1819-1891), Independent minister, and his wife Mary, née Walker. His family moved to Australia in 1853.

He was educated at Ipswich (1854-55), Woolloomooloo, Sydney (1855-56), and Rev William McIntyre's school at Maitland (1856-59).

His student days at the University of Sydney

Continuing his education in a brilliant arts course at the University of Sydney (BA 1863; MA 1870), he earned first-class honours in classics and mathematics. In 1862 he won the (Sir Daniel) Cooper scholarship in classics (Professor Woolley assessing him as one of the four best students of his decade), and the (Thomas) Barker scholarship in mathematics. He also studied law, taking general jurisprudence as an extra university course.

His career

After serving articles with an Ipswich solicitor - interrupted when in 1865 he visited Europe on a travelling scholarship - Griffith passed the Bar examination, and was admitted to the Queensland Bar on 14 October 1867.

An early photo

An early photo of Griffith, photo, The Brisbane Courier, 15 March 1893, National Library of Australia.

Griffith had a political and legal career of great distinction: he was a Queensland politician (1872-93) who was Premier 1883-88 and 1890-93. He was Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Queensland 1893-1903 and of the High Court of Australia 1903-19).


Sir Samuel Griffith, Chief Justice of Queensland, photo, Australian Town and Country Journal, 1 April 1898, National Library of Australia.


Sir Samuel Griffith, Lieutenant-Governor and Chief Justice of Queensland, photo, Queensland Country Life, 1 August 1901, National Library of Australia.

early 1900s

Photo by Crown Studios 1903-19, nla pic-an23398523, courtesy National Library of Australia

He played an important part in the federation of the Australian colonies, the framing of the Constitution, and the attainment by the Court of its high standards of integrity, learning, ability, and industry.

Griffith died in Brisbane on 8 August 1920, having retired the previous year.

From the Australian Dictionary of Biography, the National Library of Australia and a biography by Harry Gibbs

His membership of Senate

Griffith was an active Fellow of Senate from 1904 to 10 November 1919 when he retired. He was a Fellow elected by a Convocation of electors to fill a vacancy from 1904 to 1913, and a Fellow elected by the Fellows from 1913 to 1919.

In its 1920 Report, Senate noted that Sir Samuel Griffith had been a Fellow for fifteen years. He had gained very high academic distinction during his University career; he had a genuine enthusiasm for the advancement of knowledge and learning, and with large experience and ripe judgment, gave during his long term as a Fellow of the Senate earnest thought to the work and problems of the University, and laid it under a deep obligation by his ungrudging and invaluable counsel. In the wider sphere of his activities outside the University, as Statesman and Judge, he rendered to the public of Australia eminent and unique service, the memory of which will be preserved throughout Australian history.