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Sir Jack Rumbold QC, 1920 - 2001

Sir Jack Rumbold QC, who died in London in December 2001 aged 81, had a career which included being a principal legal adviser to British colonies gaining independence in Africa and president of the industrial tribunals of England and Wales.

Born in Reefton in 1920, he graduated LLB from Canterbury University in 1940 and became the youngest New Zealander to be awarded a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford. That was deferred because of the war, during which he served in the Royal Navy, surviving a sinking in the Mediterranean and being mentioned in dispatches for getting the surviving crew safely off the vessel.

After the war he completed a Bachelor of Civil Laws degree at Oxford and was called to the Inner Temple Bar in 1948 before returning to practise in Wanganui, where he became Crown prosecutor.

Sir Jack joined the British Colonial Service in 1957, serving initially as Crown counsel in Nairobi before working on independence arrangements with the Attorney-General’s office in Kenya.

He was appointed Attorney-General of Zanzibar in 1963 (the year he also took Silk), with the task of preparing a constitution. Just 10 days after independence in 1964, a bloody coup occurred and he and his family escaped by yacht to the African mainland.

He then returned to Kenya as an adviser to the Kenyan Ministry of Legal and Constitutional Affairs, helping prepare the constitutional arrangements for Kenya’s transition to a republic and he established the legal training programme that developed into the law faculty of the University of East Africa.

In 1966 he became the first academic director of the British campus of Stanford University of Los Angeles, a position he held for five years.

He also began his involvement in industrial tribunal work, becoming a part-time chair in 1968 and full-time in 1972. Later he became president of industrial tribunals for England and Wales and was knighted before his retirement in 1984.

A first cousin of Sir Jack’s, George Spencer, practises law in the Ashburton partnership of Spencer Walker.

This obituary was first published in LawTalk 576, 11 February 2002, page 6.

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Last updated on the 11th May 2012