BY HG HELPS Editor-at-Large firstname.lastname@example.org (Courtesy of the Jamaican Observer)
ONE of Jamaica’s most colourful politicians, top lawyer, Ambassador Dudley Joseph Thompson succumbed to a massive heart attack in the United States city of New York yesterday.
Thompson, who celebrated his 95th birthday on January 19, was in New York to address a group of university students when the end came. He had lived in Florida for several years after retiring as a Jamaican diplomat. He leaves behind widow Cecile, three daughters and a son.
Thompson was the first student of Mico College, now the Mico University College, to win the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University in England in 1947. A Pan-Africanist, and the first man to be made a citizen of the African Union, Thompson served as a Cabinet minister under former Prime Minister Michael Manley during the 1970s.
Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller yesterday expressed regret at Thompson’s passing. “I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing of the Hon Dudley Thompson, an outstanding Jamaican politician, diplomat and statesman, and a personal and dear friend for more than four decades,” Simpson Miller said. “His passing is exceptionally painful for me, as it was only recently after my electoral victory, that he called with a most heart-warming congratulation,” she said.
Simpson Miller said that Thompson served Jamaica well. “A man of firm convictions, articulate, sharp on his feet and witty, Dudley Thompson loved his country with a passion and served it with honour and distinction,” she said.
Opposition Leader Andrew Holness, who yesterday expressed profound regret, on behalf of the Jamaica Labour Party, on the passing of Thompson, described the former Cabinbet minister as a Jamaican legend. He said that Thompson served Jamaicans at home and abroad, as well as Africa and its Diaspora as a lawyer, a statesman and an ambassador and, “even in his nineties, continued to search for a formula to merge these demographics into a single, unified force for world change”.
Known as one of Jamaica’s finest lawyers of his generation, Thompson, a Royal Air Force soldier in World War II, was also a member of Parliament for St Andrew. After his retirement from active politics, Thompson served as Ambassador and High Commissioner to some African countries, including Nigeria, Ghana, Namibia and Sierra Leone.
Born in Panama, Thompson served as a PNP senator from 1962 to 1978, when he won a by-election in St Andrew West. He held the seat until 1983 when the PNP refused to contest the snap election called by then Prime Minister Edward Seaga. A former chairman of the PNP, Thompson was minister of state for foreign affairs from 1972 to 1975, minister of mining and natural resources from 1977 to 1978 and later became minister of national security and justice in early 1978.
His infamous statement that ‘no angels died at Green Bay’, following the killing of five civilian supporters of the Jamaica Labour Party by local army personnel at a firing range in the hills of St Catherine in 1977, caused much controversy. The Green Bay massacre occurred 34 years ago on January 5, 1978. Five men from Gold and Higholborn streets in the Central Kingston community of Southside were lured into an ambush at the Jamaica Defence Force firing range and shot dead. They had gone there in Red Cross ambulances with the promise of getting jobs. Among the five killed was outstanding former Santos Football Club and Jamaica midfielder Norman “Gutto” Thompson. Five other men who also made the journey managed to escape. Dudley Thompson made the infamous statement in an initial response to calls for an inquiry into the Green Bay incident. The enquiry was eventually held and 10 JDF soldiers charged with murder and conspiracy to murder. They were all freed in the Manchester Circuit Court in February, 1982.
The eloquent Thompson also served as president of the Jamaican Bar Association and was a Queen’s Counsel. He is known for famously defending Jomo Kenyatta after the African was abducted by Britain in 1952. Kenyatta went on to become president of Kenya. Apart from that famous case, Thompson practised law in other parts of Africa, Jamaica and the rest of the Caribbean. Thompson was president of the World African Diaspora Union when he died.