John McEwen (1900-1980) was deputy prime minister when Harold Holt drowned, and was commissioned as Prime Minister while the Liberals chose a new leader. McEwen was a public servant, a soldier and a farmer before entering Parliament. Once expelled from his party, after accepting a portfolio in the Lyons-Page coalition government in 1937, he gained a reputation as a doughty fighter for the interests of both farmers and the Country Party. His particular foe within the coalition was William McMahon, whom he publicly vetoed as Holt’s successor.
John McEwen becomes Prime Minister
Prime Minister Harold Holt disappears while swimming at Portsea, Victoria. Although his body is never found, he is presumed dead and Country Party leader, John McEwen, is appointed caretaker Prime Minister while the Liberal Party chooses a new leader. For more information, visit the Australian Prime Ministers Centre.