Maurice Duplessis, one of Quebec's most controversial premiers whose tenure was marred by the scandal surrounding the so-called "Duplessis Orphans," died 50 years ago on Monday.

Known as "le chef," Duplessis was first elected as a conservative to represent Trois-Rivieres in 1927.

Duplessis founded the Union Nationale party in 1936 and led it to victory in a provincial election that year.

His first term was a disappointment and his government was defeated in 1939.

The Union Nationale was returned to office in 1944, the first of four majority governments.

Duplessis remained in office until his death from a brain hemorrhage in 1959, at the age of 69.

Historians say Quebecers were drawn to Duplessis' authoritarian style as they sought comfort and stability during the early days of the Cold War.

'Great Darkness'

Despite his popularity, Duplessis' reign is often referred to as "La Grande Noirceur" or the great darkness.

His tenure was marred by accusations of corruption and the scandal surrounding the so-called Duplessis Orphans.

Thousands of orphans allege they were physically and psychologically abused while in church care in the 1940's and '50's.

The allegations were never proven in court, though Quebec made a multi-million-dollar compensation offer in 2001.