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John Reith, 1st Baron Reith

A memorial stone tablet to John Charles Walsham Reith, 1st Baron Reith, was unveiled in 1972 at Westminster Abbey. Its original site was on the wall just outside Poets' Corner door but in 2018 it was moved inside the new lobby leading to the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Galleries and can be seen there.

He was born 20th July 1889 at Stonehaven, a child of the Reverend Dr George Reith and his wife Adah (Weston). Educated in Glasgow he was commissioned into the 5th Scottish Rifles. Later he went to London to find work and during the 1914-1918 war served at Loos. After being wounded he went to America for the ministry of munitions. In 1921 he married Muriel Odhams and they had a son Christopher and daughter Marista. He was General Manager at the BBC and its first Director in 1926. During his time there he extended the use of regional stations and innovations followed which covered major events in the life of the nation. In 1927 he was knighted and was later chairman of Imperial Airways and during the Second World War served in the Ministry of Information. Various posts followed including the Colonial development council.

He died on 16th June 1971 and is buried at Rothiemurchus in Inverness-shire. The inscription reads:

John Reith 1889 1971. First Director General of the British Broadcasting Corporation

Further reading

"Into the Wind" memoirs

"The Reith diaries" edited by C. Stuart, 1975

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography


20th July 1889


16th June 1971




Poets' Corner

Memorial Type


Material Type


John Reith, 1st Baron Reith
John Reith, 1st Baron Reith memorial

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2020 Dean and Chapter of Westminster

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I’ve worked here for over thirty years and have seen many of the major services - it’s strange to realise that you are in a small way part of history.

Pamela - Rector's Secretary

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