Griffiths, James, 1890-1975.

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Griffiths, James, 1890-1975.

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James Griffiths (1890-1975), trade union leader and MP, became the first Secretary of State for Wales. He was born in Betws, Carmarthenshire, on 19 September 1890, the youngest of ten children who also included the poet 'Amanwy' (David Rees Griffiths, 1882-1953). Educated at Betws Board School, he left at the age of 13 to work at Ammanford No. 1 colliery (Gwaith Isa'r Betws), where he eventually became Lodge Secretary. He continued his education by attending night school. At work he became involved with the socialist movement, and helped establish a branch of the Independent Labour Party in Ammanford in 1908, soon becoming its secretary. He was also the secretary of the newly formed Ammanford Trades Council, 1916-1919. As a pacifist, he opposed World War One, and while campaigning on this issue, he met Winifred Rutley, who became his wife in 1918. He won a scholarship to the Central Labour College, London, 1919-1921. On returning home he worked as Llanelli Labour Party agent, 1922-1925, an agent for the Anthracite Miners' Association, 1925-1936, and President of the South Wales Miners' Federation ('the Fed'), 1934-1936. In 1936, he was elected Labour MP for Llanelli, joining the National Executive in 1939. Following World War Two he was made Minister for National Insurance by Attlee, 1945-1950. In this capacity he introduced Family Allowances, a new Industrial Injuries Act, and the National Insurance Act 1948. He was also Chairman of the Labour Party, 1948-1949. He became Secretary of State for the Colonies in 1950. Within two years however the Labour Party was out of office. During the long period in opposition he was deputy leader of the Labour Party, 1955-1959, and spokesman on Welsh affairs. Having campaigned for a Secretary of State for Wales since the 1930s, Harold Wilson appointed him the first Secretary of State for Wales following Labour's 1964 General Election victory. He held the post until 1966. He published an autobiography, Pages From Memory (London: Dent, 1969), and retired from Parliament in 1970. He had two sons and two daughters. He died in Teddington, Richmond upon Thames, London, on 7 August 1975, aged 84, and was buried at the Christian Temple in Ammanford. He corresponded with Mary Silyn Roberts (née Parry), who was involved with Coleg Harlech in its early days.

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