Robert Gordon Menzies, the son of a country shopkeeper, was born in Jeparit, Victoria. He studied law at the University of Melbourne, graduating in 1916. Menzies was known as a brilliant advocate, and entered Victorian Parliament in 1929, serving as Attorney-General, Minister for Railways, and Deputy Premier. In 1934 he won the federal seat of Kooyong, and became Attorney-General in the Federal Government, headed by Prime Minister Lyons.
In 1939, Lyons died of a heart attack, and Menzies was elected leader of the United Australia Party (UAP). Thus he became Prime Minister of Australia for the first time. This period as Prime Minister was particularly stressful due to the outbreak of the Second World War and personal rivalries within the UAP. Menzies was forced to resign in mid-1941 when opposition to his leadership became too strong. Shortly afterwards, the UAP lost government.
Now in Opposition, Menzies created a new political party - the Liberal Party - and succeeded in winning a federal election in 1949. He now commenced his second period as Prime Minister of Australia, which lasted sixteen years. This period of leadership was characterised by economic prosperity and a divided Opposition. Menzies had no rivals within his party and was apparently above criticism.
The Vietnam War marked Menzies' final years in Parliament; he resigned in 1966. He is remembered as the founding father of the Liberal Party in Australia.