Bjarni Benediktsson (born 1908)

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Bjarni Benediktsson
Bjarni Benediktsson 1964 cropped.jpg
13th Prime Minister of Iceland
In office
14 November 1963 – 10 July 1970
President Ásgeir Ásgeirsson
Kristján Eldjárn
Preceded by Ólafur Thors
Succeeded by Jóhann Hafstein
In office
8 September 1961 – 31 December 1961
President Ásgeir Ásgeirsson
Preceded by Ólafur Thors
Succeeded by Ólafur Thors
Personal details
Born (1908-04-30)30 April 1908
Reykjavík, Iceland
Died 10 July 1970(1970-07-10) (aged 62)
Þingvellir, Iceland
Political party Independence Party
Alma mater University of Iceland

Bjarni Benediktsson (30 April 1908 – 10 July 1970) was Prime Minister of Iceland from 14 November 1963 to 10 July 1970. His father, Benedikt Sveinsson [is] (1877–1954), was a leader in the independence movement in Iceland and a member of the Althingi from 1908 to 1931.

Bjarni studied constitutional law and became a professor at the University of Iceland at the age of only 24. He was elected to the city council in Reykjavík in 1934 as a member of the Independence Party and from 1940 to 1947 was mayor of the city.

Bjarni (right) with Prime Minister of Israel Levi Eshkol in 1964.

In 1947 he became Foreign Minister and served in various posts in cabinets until 1956. Bjarni was mainly responsible for Iceland joining NATO in 1949, against significant opposition, and for giving the United States Air Force a lease on Keflavík Airport near Reykjavík, which was of major strategic importance during the Cold War.[1]

Bjarni was caricatured by the Nobel prize winning writer Halldór Laxness in his 1948 play Atómstöðin (The Atom Station).[1]

In 1956, when the left-wing parties formed a coalition government, Bjarni, out of office, became editor of Morgunblaðið, a leading conservative newspaper.

In 1959, when the Independence Party formed a coalition government with the Social Democrats, Bjarni became Minister of Justice. Two years later he was elected chairman of the Independence Party and in 1963 he took over from Ólafur Thors as Prime Minister. He served in this position until his death, which was caused by a fire at a government summer house at Þingvellir; his wife and grandson also perished in the blaze.

Bjarni was the father of Björn Bjarnason and Valgerður Bjarnadóttir, as well as the father-in-law of Vilmundur Gylfason. Bjarni was the great-uncle of his namesake Bjarni Benediktsson, who became Prime Minister in January 2017.


  • "Bjarni Benediktsson". Althingi (Icelandic Parliament) (in Icelandic).
  1. ^ a b Williams, Moray (11 July 1970). "A Premier Dies, with wife and grandson, in fire". The Guardian. London. p. 3. Retrieved 12 January 2017. Subscription or UK public library membership required

Further reading

  • "Minning látinna manna". Althingi (Icelandic Parliament) (in Icelandic). Text of a speech in the Icelandic parliament by Sigurvin Einarsson on 10 October 1970, commemorating Bjarni
Political offices
Preceded by
Ólafur Thors
Minister for Foreign Affairs
Succeeded by
Kristinn Guðmundsson
Prime Minister of Iceland
Succeeded by
Jóhann Hafstein
Party political offices
Preceded by
Ólafur Thors
Leader of the Independence Party
Succeeded by
Jóhann Hafstein
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