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Charles Vincent Massey was born on February 20, 1887 in Toronto, the son of Chester Daniel Massey and Anna Vincent. His brother, Raymond Massey, was born nine years later on August 30, 1896.
Vincent Massey attended Jarvis Collegiate and, in 1906, entered University College at the University of Toronto. From 1906 to his graduation in 1910 he was active in many campus activities such as contributor to the Varsity and other campus publications, and chair of the Letters Club. In 1911 he entered Balliol College, Oxford. On his return to Canada in 1913, he was employed as Dean of the Men's residence, Victoria College and as lecturer in history.
In 1915 he married Alice Parkin and a year later welcomed the birth of his first son, Lionel. His second son, Hart, was born in 1918. In 1919 Vincent Massey was instrumental in forming the Massey Foundation from his grandfather's estate. In 1919 Hart House, named in honour of his grandfather, Hart Almerrin Massey, was opened. This was followed by the establishment of Hart House Theatre, in which he was instrumental as patron, director and actor, and later the Hart House String Quartet, which was sponsored and promoted by Vincent and Alice Massey.
Vincent Massey embarked on a long career of public service, as politician and government representative abroad. In 1926 he was appointed Canada's first minister to Washington by the newly elected Liberal government. In 1930 he was appointed Canadian High Commissioner to London by Prime Minister Mackenzie King but resigned shortly following the defeat of Liberal Party by Conservatives led by R.B. Bennett. When the Liberal's returned to power in 1935, he was reappointed High Commissioner to London. He and his wife remained in London throughout the war years. During their years in England they continued to support the arts both in Britain and Canada.
Following their return to Canada in 1946, Massey continued to be involved in Canadian arts and culture, published his book On being Canadian (1948), and from 1949-1951 served as Chairman, Royal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letter and Sciences. Recommendations from this Commission led to the formation of the Canada Council.
Two years after the death of his wife in 1950 Vincent Massey was appointed the first Canadian born Governor- General of Canada (1952-1959). His son, Lionel, served as his private secretary. Following completion of his term as Governor-General he continued to write, lecture, and serve the arts and culture community. In 1962 he published his autobiography What's past is prologue. In 1957 he had initiated the establishment of Massey College at the University of Toronto. Six years later he attended its official opening. He died in London, England on December 30,1967.