Sir Samuel Griffith was Premier of Queensland and first Chief Justice of Australia. He was born at Merthyr Tydfil, Wales, on 21 June 1845 and migrated to Australia at the age of nine. Griffith attended Maitland High School and Sydney University (BA hons, 1863; MA, 1870), and was called to the Bar in Brisbane in 1867.

Griffith became a politician, and represented East Moreton (1872-73), Oxley (1873-78) and North Brisbane (1878-93) in the Queensland Legislative Assembly. In 1874 he served as Attorney-General of Queensland, and in 1879 became Leader of the Opposition. In November 1883 he became Premier and Colonial Secretary, largely through his opposition to 'Kanaka' labour, widely used on sugar cane farms. He lost his position to former Premier McIlwraith in June 1888 but in August 1890 again became Premier in a coalition ministry with McIlwraith, which lasted until March 1893, when he retired to become Chief Justice of Queensland, at the age of 47. He subsequently compiled Queensland's Criminal Code.

A strong advocate of Federation, he proposed the Federal Australasian Council, over which he sometimes presided. He represented Queensland at the Colonial Conference (London, 1887) and the Federal Conference (1890), and became vice-president of the 1891 Convention, under Sir Henry Parkes. He was one of the principal authors of the Bill which formed the basis of Australia's constitution. Appointed Lieutenant-Governor in 1899, Griffith was in London when the Commonwealth Bill passed through the British Parliament. He became a Privy Councillor in 1901 and was the obvious choice as Chief Justice of Australia when the High Court was established in 1903, when his duties as Governor ended.

In 1909 Griffith became Vice-President of the Royal Colonial Institute, and in 1912 and 1913 received honorary Doctorates of Laws. Three years later he was made an honorary Fellow of the British Academy. Griffith retired from the High Court in August 1919, at that age of 74, and died in Brisbane on 9 August 1920.

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