Tunku Ismail bin Tunku Yahya was born a member of the royal family,
on 23 April 1907, in Kulim Kedah. He had his early education in
both Malay and English schools, and he passed his Senior Cambridge
Examination in Sultan Abd. Hamid College.
Tunku Ismail bin Tunku Yahya had been appointed to a number of
important posts in the Kedah Civil Service before being appointed
as Kedah Menteri Besar. He had begun his career as a Kedah Civil
Service cadet in 1926. He then went on to hold such posts as the
Assistant Land Offficer of Kubang Pasu, the Assistant District and
Land Officer of Sik, a member of the Alor Setar Town Council, the
Kubang Pasu Land Officer, the District and Land Officer of Langkawi.
He had also been appointed as the first Assistant Superintendent
of Customs and Monopolies of Alor Setar, as Kulim District Officer,
the Kuala Muda District Officer, the Chief Magistrate of Alor Setar
and Kedah Food Controller.
He was then appointed as the Deputy Kedah State Secretary and
later as Kedah State Secretary in 1948. He acted as Kedah Menteri
Besar from 1949 to 1951 and then he was appointed the second Kedah
Menteri Besar and served the State from 1954 to 1959.