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Sir Stanley Austin Whitehead (8 October 1911 – 9 January 1976) was a New Zealand politician of the Labour Party. He was the fifteenth Speaker of the House of Representatives from 1972 to 1976, and Member of Parliament for the Nelson electorate from 1957 to 1976.

Early life and family

Whithead was born in Reefton, on the West Coast of New Zealand. His mother died during birth and he was brought up by his father and sisters. He was brought up in the mining town of Waiuta, and left school at the age of 14. In 1928, he married Frances Edna Clark, in Inangahua Junction. They had seven children together. He worked for Transport Nelson. Through his links with the trade unions he moved to Nelson. He served on the Nelson City Council as Deputy Mayor, on the Nelson Harbour Board, and on several school boards. He was the patron of several sporting clubs, including rugby, boxing, soccer, marching, bowls, and rugby league (which he had played on the West Coast in his youth with famous rugby commentator Winston McCarthy).

Political activism

Whitehead featured along with Sonja Davies in protests over the closure of the Nelson railway line, which Davies wrote about in her book Bed of Roses, and also in the television series of same name.

In 1972, Whitehead was asked by Prime Minister Norman Kirk to become the Speaker of the House of Representatives during the Third Labour Government. Whitehead hosted Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip at the 1974 Commonwealth Games and had the duty of presiding after the death of Kirk later that year.

He was knighted in 1976 in recognition of his long public service to central and local government. Less than a week later, at the age of 67 years, he died of a heart attack while welcoming a ship of the United States Navy.

The outpouring of grief from the local people was unprecedented as Nelson stopped for his service which was relayed by loud speakers to the thousands lining the streets outside Nelson Cathedral. Nearly everyone turned out to farewell him.


  • Who's Who in New Zealand, 10th Edition 1971.
Preceded by
Alfred Allen
Speaker of the New Zealand House of Representatives
Succeeded by
Roy Jack


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