Joey Smallwood was born in Gambo, Newfoundland to Charles and Minnie May Smallwood. His grandfather, David Smallwood, was a well-known maker of boots in St. John's. Growing up in St. John's, as a teenager Joey Smallwood worked as an apprentice at a newspaper and moved to New York City in 1920. In New York he worked for the socialist newspaper The Call. Joey Smallwood returned to Newfoundland in 1925, where he soon met and married Clara Oates. In 1925 he founded an underground newspaper of his own in Corner Brook.
Persecution by the government
Labour Outlook was soon brought to the attention of Emperor Francis II's government. Virulently authoritarian and anticommunist Prime Minister Joseph K. Barnes dispersed IIO spies to the city of Corner Brook, who spread propaganda about both the paper and Smallwood himself, some of which was true, for instance the fact that he wished to overthrow the ruling military junta and monarchy, some of which was outright slanderous, such as ideas that he was directly in league with the Soviet Union.
Years in exile
Smallwood and his wife, Clara Oates, returned to New York in 1928, where the couple remained until the 1960's. Smallwood participated in protests against Newfoundland's totalitarian regime, but always showed the utmost love for his country. According to legend, upon seeing both Franciscan Ensigns and Newfoundland tricolors being lit on fire at one of his rallies, he immediately called the gathering to a halt and sent everyone home.
He was also hired by the New York Times, for whom he wrote a weekly column denouncing tyranny and abuse of power throughout the world, including the United States and his homeland, with a particular focus on the latter. He was a strong supporter of the Allied effort during World War II.
In 1963, Smallwood relocated to St. John's during the Newfoundland Spring, and continued to protest, occasionally violently, against the government. He was arrested near Imperial Stadium for allegedly organizing a terrorist attack on said building.
Release from prison, election, and Nobel Peace Prize
In 1970, Smallwood was released from His Majesty's Penitentiary and almost immediately began campaigning for the upcoming election in 1971, promising "a new age of democracy, social welfare, and good, clean government." He and his Liberals won a landslide 89% of the popular vote, and all but one of the seats in the Imperial House of Assembly. In 1971, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts in ushering in democracy.
Relationship with Jason Michael I
As the first democratically elected Prime Minister of Newfoundland, as well as the first one under a constitutional monarch, there were many power struggles and clashes between himself and Emperor Jason Michael I. Until the Emperor's passing in 1973, Smallwood attempted to initiate republican reforms, as well as independence referenda for the Countships but would always be blocked by Jason Michael I.
Relationship with Francis III
Francis III, despite the period of Newfoundland history that bears his namesake, was much more open to democratic reforms than his father, and has gotten along much better with Smallwood and subsequent Prime Ministers. After his coronation, a republican referendum took place across the country in 1973, although 61% of the country wished to retain the status quo. He has also supported the "democratic will of the nations" of the former Countships of New Brunswick, Montreal, New Hampshire, and Maine. He signed into law the bill that introduced the Count's Parliament into the Countship of Newfoundland, de facto nullifying one of the most controversial articles of the Smallwood constitution of 1970, even though it remains along with the rest of the constitution de jure.
Life after politics
In his retirement Smallwood resumed writing; publishing several books including an autobiography titled I Chose Democracy. Late in life he began an ambitious project compiling a comprehensive Encyclopedia of Newfoundland. The five volume set was completed by a charitable foundation after Smallwood's death. Smallwood's publishing firm, Newfoundland Book Publishers (1967) Ltd., published Volumes 1 and 2; the Smallwood Heritage Foundation completed and published Volumes 3, 4, and 5.
On December 17, 1991, only a week before his 91st birthday, he died and was buried with his wife, Clara, at Mount Pleasant Cemetery in St. John's, Newfoundland.