Biography of John Reith 1st Baron Reith
John Charles Walsham Reith (1889-1971), 1st Baron Reith, was the first Director-General of the British Broadcasting Company (BBC). In 1965 he was elected Rector of the University. Reith Hall of Residence was named for him.
Born in Stonehaven and educated at Glasgow Academy and Gresham's School in Norfolk, and then at the Royal Technical College. Reith became an apprentice with the North British Locomotive Co at the age of 16. He served on the Western front during the First World War and was wounded at the Battle of Loos, before going to the USA as a war contracts inspector and working for William Beardmore & Co. Returning to London in search of work, he joined the newly-formed BBC as General Manager. He became Director-General and was knighted in 1927, and he was elevated to the peerage in 1940 as Baron Reith of Stonehaven. Reith is recognised as the key figure in establishing the BBC's reputation for integrity and maintaining high standards in public service broadcasting.
Reith left the BBC in 1938 and became chairman of a a succesion of prominent commercial firms and public bodies, interupted by a spell as a Government minister and a commission in the RNVR during the Second World War. In 1967 he became Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.
In 1965, Reith's opponents in the rectorial contest were the politician Iain Macleod and the diplomat Lord Caradon.