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David (Dave) Barrett was born on October 2, 1930 in Vancouver, BC. He was the youngest child in a family of three children born to Samuel and Rose (nee Hyatt) Barrett. He completed his primary education in Vancouver and graduated, in 1948, from Britannia High School. Barrett then earned his Bachelor of Arts, with a major in philosophy, from Seattle University in 1953. In 1956, Barrett completed the requirements for the degree of Master of Social Work which was conferred on him by St . Louis University. The same university awarded him an Honourary Doctorate of Philosophy in 1974. In the course of completing his education, Dave Barrett married Shirley Hackman in 1953. Together they have three children : Dan, Joe, and Jane.
In 1960, Dave joined the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation and in September of that same year, he was elected as an MLA to the BC Legislature for the Dewdney Riding . Dave was re-elected as an MLA in 1963, 1966, and 1969. In 1970, Dave Barrett became the leader of the BC provincial NDP party, taking over from Thomas Berger and, at the same time, he became the Leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition. Dave Barrett lead the NDP to victory in 1972 becoming the first NDP premier in BC. The NDP were defeated in 1975, after which Barrett stayed on as leader of the NDP until 1983. He retired from the legislature in 1984.
In June of 1984 Dave Barrett signed a contract with radio station CJOR to do his own radio show. Additionally, Barrett began to do weekly interviews for CKVU and he established Barrett Communications Ltd. Dave Barrett left CJOR in January of 1987 after which he engaged in a number of activities such as writing an autobiography, and lecturing at universities such as Harvard and McGill. Dave Barrett returned to politics in 1988 when he was elected MP for the Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca district. He remained an MP until 1993 when he ran unsuccessfully for the leadership of the NDP, after which he retired from political life.