William (Bill) Kenneth Craig was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia on July 15, 1913. He was the son of William H. Craig and Phrildia Grover. On February 26, 1931 he married Ida May Craig. They had three sons. Ida passed away in 1972. In 1974 he married his second wife Anne Bella Laird. She passed away in 1976.
Craig’s father was born in St. George, N.B., but moved where he could find work. As a result, Bill Craig spent his early years living in Nova Scotia and received his elementary education in the Nova Scotia public school system. When his mother passed away in February, 1925, the family was living in Sydney, N.S. Shortly thereafter the family moved to Saint John.
Craig went to work at the age of sixteen, working as a clerk for the Ross Drug Company, which was located at 100-102 King Street. In 1932, he was successful in getting a job at T. McAvity & Sons, as a labourer. In 1943, he left McAvity’s to take a job as a labourer at the Saint John Dry Dock. During the years of the Second World War his job was considered “War related” and he was discouraged from joining the military. In 1945, he left the Dry Dock and became employed at the Saint John Iron Works, where he was provided with the opportunity to become a machinist. Also, it was at this time that his involvement in the labour movement began in earnest.
The Saint John Iron Works had a collective agreement with the Industrial Union of Marine and Shipbuilding Workers, Local 6. Craig became involved in the affairs of the local and quickly moved up the ranks. He was elected president of Local 6 and very shortly his abilities as a labour leader were recognized by the labour movement in general. He was elected president of the Marine Workers Federation, 1st vice-president of the New Brunswick Council of Labour, and in 1949 was instrumental in the organization of the Saint John Labour Council (CCL). He served as president of the Labour Council until it merged with the Saint John Trades and Labour Council in 1957. He represented labour on numerous provincial committees such as the provincial apprenticeship committee. He was also the employee representative on the Unemployment Insurance Board of Referees.
In 1954, Craig was hired as a full-time General Organizer for the Canadian Congress of Labour in New Brunswick. That same year he decided to get involved in municipal politics and began in what would become a long and successful political career. In all, he served as a Saint John City Councillor for 16 years, retiring from public office in 1971. Running as an official labour candidate, he never lost an election.
In 1956, the Canadian Congress of Labour merged with the Trades and Labour Congress of Canada to form the Canadian Labour Congress. Bill Craig then became a representative with the Canadian Labour Congress. At that time the Canadian Labour Congress had a number of directly chartered locals in the region. Craig’s job was to service these locals, assist with educational seminars and direct any campaigns that the Congress might be undertaking. Also, during this period of time he would often represent labour on conciliation or arbitration boards. His colleagues would often remark that it was incredible how he could balance these duties with that of a City Councillor.
Craig was always recognized as labour’s man on Council. He regularly attended the meetings of the Labour Council and was always willing to take labour’s position to the City Council table. He never hesitated to speak out on behalf of the working people. An example of this was during the 1961 Dry Dock strike, when he moved a motion that the City, “express disappointment in the attitude of the Dry Dock management in not meeting with the union” During debate on the motion he said, “I don’t know what’s got into the management. I’m at a loss to understand what they’re doing. I don’t know if they’re trying for another Murdochville situation”—this was a reference to the 1957 copper mining strike in Murdochville, Que where violence had resulted. The motion having failed, Craig then moved that Council call on both sides to meet. That motion passed unanimously.
As a member of Council he served on many civic boards and committees. He also served as Warden of the Municipalities of the County of St. John. At one point he served as Deputy Mayor.
He was in ill-health the last two years of his life and could only work occasionally. When Bill Craig passed away on October 28, 1976, at the age of sixty-three, numerous condolences were received from politicians and labour leaders. He had fought the good fight on behalf of working people for over thirty years, but was remembered by everyone for his sense of fairness. An editorial in the Saint John Evening Times Globe described him in these terms:
One of the outstanding characteristics of William K. Craig
was his unwavering sense of fairness. Mr. Craig was a labour
man all his life and he vigorously and effectively championed
the cause of organized labour. Yet he always maintained an
objective set of values in dealing with issues in public life.
It was this fairness and this competence which was recognized
by the community at large in electing Mr. Craig to seven terms
on the Saint John Common Council. Prior to his retirement from
public life in 1971 he had served as warden of the old municipality
and as deputy mayor of the city of Saint John.
Mr. Craig was chairman of a number of important council
committees and an active and effective member of others.
In the labour field, where he was an organizer with the
Canadian Labour Congress, he held many elected offices,
including the presidency of the Saint John District Labour
William Craig was a good labour man, a good city councillor
and a good community servant. His contribution to public
life was considerable and in his passing the community suffers
William (Bill) Kenneth Craig was laid to rest in Oceanview Memorial Gardens on the 1st of November, 1976.