Tuesday, December 28, 2010


John Henry Downing Junior was born June 10, 1936 in Toronto to J. H. Downing, an east-end doctor who chaired the Toronto Board of Education in 1938, and to Lena, a Toronto Bible College graduate as a medical missionary. He was orphaned at 5 and raised by relatives. He married Mary Horvat of Hamilton in 1961.  They have three sons, John Henry III of California; Brett, of Etobicoke; and Mark, of Dalian, China. There are four grandsons: John Henry IV, Marc Oliver, Matthew and Michael.

He graduated from Weston Collegiate in 1955. He won several regional public speaking championships, acted in the annual school play, and directed the entry which took second at Hart House in the Ontario school finals. He  received his journalism diploma from Ryerson Institute of Technology in 1958. He won several scholarships, was an editor on the Ryersonian newspaper, and was elected student president. In 1972 he received a Bachelor of Applied Arts from Ryerson Polytechnical Institute. He studied environmental science in the first courses of its kind, and urban geography, at University of Toronto.
He authored the official Ryerson history in 1978 - revised and published later as Ryerson University - A Unicorn Among Horses - and served on board committees, presidential and journalism search committees, and task forces revising the Ryerson University Act and photography courses.
He served on advisory journalism committees at Ryerson and Humber College, and lectured there and at Dalhousie University.

In 1957 he was the Editor of the Whitehorse Star in the Yukon Territory. He joined the Toronto Telegram in 1958 and was a reporter and editor, including Night  Editor, Suburban Editor and City Editor. He was Assistant Managing Editor when the newspaper closed and put out the final edition.
He was part of the group that started the Toronto Sun in 1971. He wrote a daily political column on Page 4, and was Associate Editor until he became the Editor in 1985. He stepped aside in 1997 but continued as a columnist until 2007. He then began his blog, Downing’s Views.
 He was a chief judge for the National Newspaper Awards in the spot news, feature photography and news photography categories from 2002 to 2006.
He has written articles for Macleans and TIME, and editorials and articles for the Ontario Motor League and Toronto Board of Trade magazines. He was the Canadian editor of the World Almanac for several years when it was the world's most-used reference book. He did a weekly political commentary on CBC Radio from 1971 to 1980 and was a TV political commentator on CBC, Global, CTV and City.

He was a founding director of the Toronto Outdoor Art Show when it began in 1968 and became an honourary life director in 2000.

He was president of the Toronto Press Club in 1973. In 1974, he was president of the Association of Canadian Press Clubs and made the Michener Award presentation to Governor General Jules Leger. From 1990 to 1993, he was involved with the first years of the Canadian Journalism Foundation. He served as curator of the Canadian Journalism Hall of Fame. He was chair from 1992 to 1996 of the Canadian delegation to the world’s oldest media forum, the International Press Institute, where senior journalists from more than 60 countries fight censorship. 

He was a director of the Metro Citizens’ Safety Council and originator of the motion that the council buy equipment for the Metro Police in a pilot project called Reduce Impaired Driving in Etobicoke. This program expanded into Reduce Impaired Driving Everywhere, the first of the annual RIDE programs..
He campaigned for child safety seats and received four Ontario Safety League writing awards from 1983 to 1986. He became an OSL director and received its Distinguished Service Award in 2009.
He raised money for a new ambulance for St. John Ambulance and in 1983 received the St. John Priory Award from Governor General Ed Schreyer.

He received eight awards from the Metro Police Association from 1974 to 1990 for editorials and columns on policing and safety. He served on the advisory committee for the police museum from 2006 to 2008.

In 1954 and 1955, he served with the Royal Canadian Air Force Reserve. He trained and worked in air traffic control.

He was president of the Canadian National Exhibition in 2000 and 2001, a director of the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in 2000 and 2001, and a governor of the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame from 1998 to 2004. He was a governor of the Exhibition Place board from 1998 to 2002 and vice-chair in 2001. He continues on the Canadian National Exhibition board.
He was a member of a Toronto Board of Education advisory committees on nature schools and the teaching of science and urban geography.
He was a member of the Toronto city council advisory committee on civic awards of merit from 1986 to 1989 and chaired the committee to 1994. He received council’s service award in 1994.
He served on the Metro and Region Conservation Authority from 1968 to 1975. He was appointed reeve of Black Creek Pioneer Village from 1976 to 1978. He received an honour roll service award and life membership from the authority in 1986.
He was a judge for 15 years for Metro Caravan and received its award of merit in 1984.
He was a member of the Toronto Board of Trade task force on municipal governance in 2005 and 2006.
He was a director of the Runnymede Health Care Centre from 1988 to 2008 and was fund raising chair in 2006 and 2007. He continues with Friends of Runnymede.
He was a founding director of the Terry Fox Hall of Fame in 1993 and continues as the hall evolved into the Canadian Disability Hall of Fame in 2009.

In 1979, he wrote a series of columns and editorials in the Toronto and Edmonton Suns asking for donations to help the Vietnamese “boat people.” He went to refugees camps and became the official sponsor for 43 of the refugees he met there, bringing them to Toronto and Edmonton and supporting them using $300,000 donated by his readers.
Rufugee camp in Malaysia

Sponsoring Vietnamese "boat people" into Canada

In 1988 and 1989  he led a “count me Canadian” editorial campaign and also petitioned human rights organizations to end the federal refusal to allow Canadians to give Canadian as their ethnic origin on census forms. The census forms were changed in 1995 to allow this. Statistics Canada stated it was because of the Sun’s campaign.

In 1992 he received Canada’s commemorative medal for the 125th anniversary of the country.
In 2002 he received the B’nai Brith award of distinction in Canadian journalism.
In 2012, he was the recipient of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee commemorative medal.

He wrote Ryerson University A Unicorn Among Horses, and was ghost writer for Nathan Phillips’ book Mayor Of All The People  and for A. Kelso Roberts’ book The Member for St. Patrick. He wrote parts of  the CNE history Once Upon A Century, the Outdoor Art Show’s 40th anniversary book, and Toronto's official sesquicentennial book. He has contributed to several books on Toronto’s history and Ontario ghosts.

Reading, fishing, bad golf and watching all sports. For the first five years, he was a season ticket holder for the Toronto Blue Jays. An ardent fan, he was there for Joe Carter's home run. He played varsity football and intramural basketball and volleyball in high school and university.


Unknown said...

Nice to hear that hee played varsity football and intramural basketball and volleyball in high school and university.
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Unknown said...

Statistics Canada stated it was because of the Sun’s campaign. - drywall contractor Bachman

Unknown said...

He played varsity football and intramural basketball and volleyball in high school and university, click here.

Unknown said...

He has contributed to several books on Toronto’s history and Ontario ghosts.

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anonymous said...
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anonymous said...

He attended the University of Toronto to study urban geography and environmental science in the first courses of its kind. | Ben Cooley

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