Ismail bin Dato’ Abdul Rahman was born in Johor Bahru on November 4th 1915. His father, Abdul Rahman bin Mohamed Yassin was a former civil service officer who had held the position of First President of Dewan Negeri, the highest attainable position in Johor Government. His mother, Zaharah binti Abu Bakar, passed away while he was nine. He had 8 siblings in all.
He had married Toh Puan Norashikin binti Dato’ Mohd. Seth. The marriage bore him 6 children, four sons and two daughters. Tun Dr. Ismail was sports fan who found joy in golf, rugby, tennis, badminton, boxing and football. He also had a huge interest in photography, traditional Malay songs and loved collecting antiques such as smoking pipes and lighters. He also enjoyed gardening and was content to have a lush garden of flowers and fruit trees around his home.
Tun Dr. Ismail studied in English College, Johor Bahru, and continued to study in King Edward VII College of Medicine, Singapore in 1935 to 1937. After that he had futhered his studies in Autralia. He obtained a degree in Medicine from the Melbourne University in 1945 and was the first Malay to graduate from that university. After returning to his motherland, he had opened his own medical clinic named Tawakkal from 1947 to 1952 aside from working part time in Hospital Besar, Johor Bahru.
In 1953, he had begun to involve himself full time to fight for the independence of the country through UMNO which at the time was led by Y.T.M Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra. Before that Tun Dr. Ismail was appointed as member of Majlis Mesyuarat Undangan Negeri Johor and Majlis Mesyuarat Kerajaan in 1948. In 1953 he had held the post of Minister of Land Resource until 1955. A year after that he was appointed as the first Minister of Trade and Industry. He was also involved in the convoy of Chief Minister Y.T.M Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra to London on 18 January to 8 February 1956 to negotiate the Independence of Malaya.
After independence, Tun Dr. Ismail was appointed as the first Ambassador of Federation of Malay States to Washington as well as being a permanent representative in the United Nation. In September 1957 he had attended the United Nation General Assembly after Malaya was accepted as a member of the organization. Due to his vast experience in the international arena, he was appointed as Minister of Foreign Affairs in 1959. A year after that he was appointed as Minister of National Security and 3 months after that he was assigned to undertake tasks as Minister of Internal Affairs.
In 1967 he had decided to resign due to poor health (heart problems). However he then returned to service in May 1969. He was appointed as the Minister of Internal Affairs. His firm and steadfast countenance in making decisions had helped him to restore peace and order in the country after the tragedy of May 13, 1969. After Y.T.M Tunku Abdul Rahman retired in 1970, Allahyarham Tun Razak was appointed as the next Primes minister and he in turn had appointed Tun Dr. Ismail as his deputy as well Minister of Internal Affairs and Minister OfTrade and Industries.
Tun Dr. Ismail was known among international and local leader for his intelligence in debates and his constructive and brilliant ideas. He was the first person to come up with the Southeast Asian Neutral Policy. While holding the post of Judicial Minister, he had attended the Persidangan Menteri-Menteri Kehakiman Komanwel in Australia and Persidangan Keamanan Dunia in Washington in year 1965. He represented Malaysian in the appointment ceremony of the President of Philipines in December 1965. The year before that, following Indonesia’s confrontation of the formation of Malaysia, Tun Dr Ismail was sent to New York to discuss and present the matter regarding Malaysia and Indonesia within the Security Council on 5th November 1964.
Tun Dr. Ismail also served as acting Prime Minister while Y.T.M Tunku Abdul Rahman and Tun Abdul Razak were away on official duties. The last time he did this was when Allahyarham Tun Abdul Razak was in Canada, attending the conference of Ketua Kerajaan Negara-Negara Komanwel. He had drawn his last breath on 2nd August 1973 at the age of 57 in his own home. He had received plenty of hononary awards, both local and international due to his brilliance in performing tasks and taking up responsibilities. Among these was Panglima Mangku Negara by Yang di-Pertuan Agong on 31 Ogos 1959. The Senate of University Malaya commemorated his contribution to the country by awarding the Honorary Doctorate of Law on 13th June 1964. In October 1965 he received the Vietnam National Order Grand Officer and in the same month was bestowed Seri Paduka Mahkota Johor (SPMJ) from the Sultan of Johor.
In April 1966 he has awarded the Seri Setia Mahkota (SSM) medal which brought the title ‘Tun’. His heroism and contribution was acknowledged even by the Indonesian government when he was decorated with Bintang Republik Indonesia Kelas Dua during the visit of President Suharto to Malaysia in 1970. In the first University Science Malaya Convention on 9th January 1973, Tun Dr Ismail had been honored with an honorary Doctorate Degree in Law. In appreciation for his contributions to the country, his body was laid to rest in the National Heroes’ Tomb in the National Mosque by the wishes of Tun Abdul Razak. He was the first country leader to have been buried here. His last official duty was to officiate the Perayaan Jubli Perak Gabungan Pelajar-pelajar Melayu Semenanjung (GPMS) on 2nd August 1973.
Source: Perpustakaan Negara Malaysia (http://sejarahmalaysia.pnm.my)