Born in Glasgow, Scotland, he attended Glasgow Academy before studying at the University of Glasgow, where he gained both LLB and MA degrees. Here, he met John Smith -- who would later become leader of the British Labour Party -- through the debating society.
A member of the Labour Party at both Scottish and national levels, Donald Dewar worked as a Solicitor in Glasgow before being elected at the age of 26 to the Parliament of the United Kingdom at Westminster to represent the constituency of Aberdeen South.
After a political hiatus during the 1970s, Donald Dewar was returned to Westminster as the Member of Parliament for Glasgow Garscadden in 1978. He rose quickly through the ranks, becoming a member of the Shadow Cabinet in 1984. By 1995, Donald was a Chief Whip for the Labour Party, and when the Labour Party was declared the majority party in the 1997 election, he was given the post of Secretary of State for Scotland.
By this stage, Donald was in a position which the late John Smith would never have thought possible. He was able to start the devolution process, and worked endlessly on creating the Scotland Act. When ratified, this was to give Scotland its first Parliament for nearly 300 years.
When the first elections for the new Scottish parliament were held in 1999, Donald was returned as the Member for Glasgow Anniesland, and subsequently elected First Minister for the governing Scottish Labour Party/Liberal Democrat coalition.
A man with endless enthusiasm, after Dewar underwent major open heart surgery in 2000, he returned to his post as First Minister very quickly. Sadly, later that year, he suffered a serious brain hemorrhage which was triggered by the anticoagulant medication he was taking after the surgery. He died a day later, in Edinburgh's Western General Hospital. His funeral service was held at Glasgow Cathedral.
Donald Dewar's work for the Scottish Parliament has led him to be called the "Father of the Nation". He certainly cared deeply for his consitituents, while his slightly unkempt appearance endeared him to many a British citizen.