Bell, Sir Francis Henry Dillon

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BELL, SIR FRANCIS HENRY DILLON (1851–1936). New Zealand politician and prime minister. Francis ("Harry") Bell was the son of a Protestant father and a Jewish mother, Margaret Hort. His Jewish background was well known in his lifetime. Born in Nelson, New Zealand, Bell was educated at Cambridge University and became a barrister in London until 1875, when he returned to Wellington, New Zealand, to practice law. After an extremely successful legal career, he entered politics and served as mayor of Wellington three times. In 1893 he was elected to the New Zealand parliament, serving until 1896, when he resumed his legal career. In 1912 Bell was appointed to the Legislative Council, New Zealand's upper house, serving until his death. A forceful and well-respected politician, he held numerous government posts and served as acting prime minister several times before becoming New Zealand's prime minister for two weeks in May 1925 following the death of Prime Minister William Massey. Bell was New Zealand's first native-born prime minister and the second Jew, after Julius *Vogel, to hold the office. Bell received a knighthood in 1915. Originally a radical, he later described himself as a "Tory socialist."


W.J. Gardiner, "Bell, Francis Henry Dillon," in: The Dictionary of New Zealand Biography (2003; online update).

[William D. Rubinstein (2nd ed.)]