The Dictionary of Australasian Biography/Bray, Hon. Sir John Cox

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Bray, Hon. Sir John Cox, M.L.A., Agent-General for South Australia, is the son of the late T. C. Bray, and was born in East Adelaide in 1842. He commenced his education at St. Peter's College in that city, but completed it in England. On his return to Australia, he commenced to qualify for practice as a solicitor, and on the expiry of his articles first entered Parliament in 1871 as the representative of East Adelaide, by which district he has been returned to the House of Assembly ever since. It was not until 1875 that he filled any ministerial position. When Mr. Justice Bundey, who had been Minister of Justice and Education in the Blyth Ministry, resigned, Mr. Bray was appointed in his place on March 15th, 1875, but the Government only lasted till June 3rd of the same year. In June 1876 Mr. Colton formed his first Administration, and appointed Mr. Bray to the post of Attorney-General, which he held till the Ministry retired, on Oct. 26th, 1877. For the next four years Mr. Bray was the generally recognised leader of the Opposition, although when Sir William Morgan's Ministry resigned in 1881, the Governor sent for Mr. Colton. This gentleman, however, declined the task of forming a ministry, and Mr. Bray was sent for, and got together a ministry which was strong enough to remain in office for three years. In 1884 Mr. Bray made a trip to England, and returned to the colony by way of America. On arriving in Adelaide, he found the Downer Government in power, and on the resignation of Mr. Darling, who held office as Commissioner of Public Works, he joined Mr. Downer as Chief Secretary on Oct. 14th, 1885, resigning that position for the post of Treasurer on June 8th, 1886. He went out of office on the downfall of the Downer Ministry, on June 7th, 1887; but in May 1888, on the death of the late Sir Robert Ross, he was elected to fill the position of Speaker of the House of Assembly—a post which he held with marked ability during the remainder of the Parliament. He declined, however, to again accept the position at the opening of the Parliament in 1890, preferring to re-enter the active arena of politics. Mr. Bray was created K.C.M.G. in 1890, his acceptance of the distinction provoking considerable comment, it having been understood that he had on a previous occasion declined it, on grounds similar to those which influenced Mr. Higinbotham, Mr. Francis, and Mr. Deakin, in refusing the title. Sir John Bray, however, defended his action on the ground that, having accepted an office under the Crown which, according to well-known custom, carried with it the honour of knighthood, he would have been casting a slur upon his predecessors and doing an injustice to his successors in repudiating it. Sir John Bray, who accepted the post of Chief Secretary in the Playford Government in August 1890, has taken an active part in the proceedings of the South Australian Natives Association, and presided over the Intercolonial Conference of these bodies, which in 1890 declared in favour of Australasian Federation. He was elected by the South Australian Legislative Assembly to be one of the representatives of the colony to the Federation Convention, held in Sydney in 1891. Sir John Bray was, it may be added, one of the representatives of his colony at the Intercolonial Conference held In Sydney in Nov. 1883, out of which the Federal Council of Australasia sprang. He was a member of the South Australian Commission for the Colonial and Indian Exhibition of 1886, and Vice-President of the South Australian Commission to the Melbourne Centennial Exhibition of 1888. In Jan. 1892 Sir John Bray left Adelaide to assume the post of Agent-General in succession to the late Sir Arthur Blyth, and took over charge of the London office on Feb. 29th of that year.