Peter Lougheed was the grandson of Sir James Lougheed, a prominent Conservative lawyer who arrived in Calgary in 1882 and at age thirty-five was appointed the youngest member of the Canadian Senate. In a speech delivered in 1889, Sir James predicted that the natural resources of Alberta would make it one day “the dominant portion of the Dominion.”
One hundred years later, his grandson was locked in a battle with Ottawa for control of those resources. Despite his illustrious heritage, Peter Lougheed was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Most of the family fortune was lost in the 1930s Depression, and his father sought consolation in alcohol. Lougheed studied law at the University of Alberta and, though a mere 160 pounds, played football for the Edmonton Eskimos.
After earning a master’s degree in business administration at Harvard, he accepted a position as secretary and legal advisor to the Calgary-based Mannix holding company. Owner Fred Mannix was the archetypal, freewheeling entrepreneur involved in a variety of business ventures including construction, ranching, coal mining, oil, and gas.
Lougheed rose up the ladder to become vice president and director, learning from the inside how a successful private-sector corporation operates. He left Mannix in 1961, set up his own law firm, and entered politics.
His biggest gamble was accepting in 1965 the leadership of the moribund provincial Progressive Conservatives, a party that had no seats, no money, and no organization. Six years later he ended the thirty-six-year-old Social Credit dynasty, capturing forty-nine of seventy-five seats in the legislature. He won overwhelming victories again in 1975, 1979, and 1982 before retiring as premier in 1985.