The Honourable William L. Walsh was a lawyer by profession and had a strong interest in public affairs. As well as serving as Alberta's Lieutenant Governor, he was the first President of the Conservative Association of the Province of Alberta.
William Legh Walsh was born on January 28, 1857, at Simcoe, Canada West (Ontario). He was the son of Aquila Walsh and Jane Adams Wilson. His father was a Member of the Legislative Assembly of Upper (Ontario) and Lower (Quebec) Canada and was the first Member of Parliament for the electoral district of Norfolk North, Ontario, in 1867. William L. Walsh was a member of the Church of England (Anglican).
After attending public and high school in Simcoe, Ontario, William L. Walsh studied at the University of Toronto and Osgoode Hall. He was called to the Ontario Bar in 1880.
On November 17, 1883, he married Bessie McVittie of Barrie, Ontario. They had two children: Marguerite Claire and Legh A. Following the death of his first wife, he married Bertha M. Barber, daughter of George Cassady of Vancouver, British Columbia, on April 22, 1931.
After attending Osgoode Hall, William L. Walsh was associated with the firm of D'Alton McCarthy in Orangeville, Ontario. He was the unsuccessful Conservative candidate for the Ontario constituency of Cardwell at the federal general election of 1896. He came west in 1900 and was called to the Yukon Bar that year, establishing a law practice at Dawson in the Yukon during the gold rush. He was named King's Counsel in 1903 and was called to the Northwest Territories Bar in 1904. In 1904, he was a candidate for the Mayor of Dawson, Yukon Territory, but was defeated. He settled in Calgary later the same year. While practising law in Calgary, he was associated with the firm of Walsh, McCarthy, and Carson. This firm evolved into the present-day firm of MacLeod Dixon.
William L. Walsh was the first President of the Conservative Association of Alberta and ran unsuccessfully for that party at a provincial by-election in 1906. In 1909, he was appointed as one of the two Counsels to the Royal Commission investigating whether any officers of the government or any Members of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta had had dealings with the Alberta and Great Waterways Railway Company. William L. Walsh was a Conservative organizer in the 1911 federal election which saw the defeat of Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier and the election of Robert Borden. He was appointed a judge of the Supreme Court of Alberta in 1912 and left the Bench in 1931 to serve as Lieutenant Governor.
On the advice of Prime Minister R.B. Bennett, William L. Walsh was appointed Lieutenant Governor of Alberta effective May 5, 1931. This appointment was made by the Earl of Bessborough, Governor General of Canada.
The Honourable William L. Walsh's tenure as Lieutenant Governor is associated with a minor constitutional problem that was precipitated by the resignation of Premier John E. Brownlee in July, 1934. When he resigned, Premier Brownlee did not name a successor. The Government Caucus chose Richard G. Reid. The Lieutenant Governor refused to accept this choice until Richard G. Reid was able to prove his ability by forming a Cabinet.
The Honourable William L. Walsh served as Lieutenant Governor until his successor was appointed effective October 1, 1936.
William L. Walsh was an Honorary Chief ("Sitting Eagle") of the Blood Indians (1931), received an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the University of Alberta (1932), was an Honorary Colonel of the University of Alberta Detachment of the Canadian Officer Training Corps, was an Honorary Bencher of the Law Society of Alberta, and was a Knight of Grace of the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem. He was also a member of the Calgary Ranchmen's Club and the Calgary Golf and Country Club. An avid golfer, William L. Walsh founded a seniors' golf tournament which bears his name and is conducted to this day alternately in the cities of Calgary and Edmonton.
He died on January 13, 1938, at Victoria, British Columbia, and was buried in the Union Cemetery at Calgary, Alberta.