Prior to the general elections of 19th September 1972, an extraordinary group of people sat in the House of Assembly and Senate.
For the House, in particular, this iteration, comprised one of the most divisive and acrimonious groupings to sit in Parliament. They absolutely couldn’t stand each other! Nevertheless, despite their disparate nature, and viewpoints, they all must be included in that austere group we call ‘nation builders.’
An Assembly and Nation Divided
Between 1971-72, prior to the general elections of the latter year, there were no less than five distinct political representations debating vociferously across the aisle. Opposing parties vehemently put forth their political stance, offering no quarter to the governing Progressive Liberal Party.
It was for this very reason that another early general election was called. A question, of an almost existential nature, challenged an emerging Bahamas in 1972, ever since it was first whispered in 1967. That question, of course, was Bahamian independence from Britain.
Randol Francis Fawkes, who by 1971, had fallen out irretrievably with Prime Minister Lynden Pindling and the PLP, carried the solitary banner for his CLP – Commonwealth Labour Party.
Alvin Rudolph Braynen remained resolute as an Independent representative for St. John district, after breaking with UBP some years before, and siding with the PLP in 1967.
Seven stalwarts carried the banner, in the ebbing years of the United Bahamian Party, before the general elections of 19th September 1972.
A new Free PLP Party had formed with eight breakaway members from the PLP.
Twenty-one members represented the governing PLP in a House of 38 seats. This was just 55%, a little over half. A blip over half wouldn’t be enough to convince the entire country and indeed the world that Bahamian independence was indeed true destiny.
Stark political divisions in the Assembly were reflected onto the country. On the cusp independence, Bahamians were still worryingly divided over the decision which would usher in far reaching political and social change. While the idea of becoming an independent state appealed to those hardliners, with history centric sensibilities, there was uneasiness, as to who would be steering the ship, into future uncharted currents of change.
Unquestionably, a strong political majority in the House of Assembly would play a significant factor in pushing the independence movement from agitation to reality.
For England, anything less than a measurable plurality would have signalled that the Bahamian people were not ready. As fate would have it, the majority was ready and reflected as much in the ballot box on 19th September 1972.
THE SENATE prior to 19th September 1972.
In the 1971-1972 Senate, there were appointees reflecting the governing Progressive Liberal Party, Opposition Party – United Bahamian Party and a breakaway political party called the Free PLP.
One initial observation can be made quite quickly. Wisdom, garnered from age and long experience, was considered a premium qualification among those chosen in the Senate.
By 1972, the three oldest Senators, would have lived through two world wars, the Great Depression, global epidemic of the Spanish Flu, introduction of electricity in The Bahamas, advent of a new tourism economy, the first automobile, first airplane, first airport in the country, as well as secret ballot voting. Their combined knowledge could have filled volumes of history books.
The Hon. Mrs. Albertha Madline Isaacs, Member of the Senate, (PLP) was a shopkeeper. Isaacs was born in the year 1900 making her 72 years old by 1972.
However, Mrs. Albertha Isaacs was not the oldest person in the Senate.
The Hon. Charles Rhodriquez M. Sen. (PLP) was born in 1899, before the turn of 20th century making him 73 years old by 1972.
The Hon. Edgar Roderick Bain, Member of the Senate (PLP) born in 1905, was the third oldest Senator. Bain would have been 67 years old in 1972.
Youngest Senators 1971-1972
Among the sixteen appointed Senators, only two were under forty years of age.
The Hon. Milo Boughton Butler Jr., Businessman, Member of the Senate and Chairman Bahamas Broadcasting and Television Commission was born on 30th November 1936. Butler would have been thirty-six years old in 1972.
The Hon. Reginald Harcourt Lobosky, Member of the Senate (UBP) was born in 5th March 1933, making him thirty-nine years old in 1972.
United Bahamian Party Senators
United Bahamian Party Senators were The Hon. Godfrey Kenneth Kelly, Barrister, born 21st December 1921; The Hon. Reginald Harcourt Lobosky, Businessman, born 5th March 1933; The Hon. Charles Augustus Dorsett, Businessman, born 28th February 1919; and The Hon. Edwin Paul Albury, Dentist, born 14th March 1922.
Sixteen Senators 1971-1972 (prior to 19th September 1972)
House of Assembly 1971-1972 (prior to 19th September 1972)
By 1972, new legislation changed the term Members of the House of Assembly (M.H.A) to Members of Parliament or (M.P.)
Oldest and Youngest
In terms of age range, the oldest Member of Parliament was The Hon. Sir Roland T. Symonette (UBP) representative for Shirlea. Sir Roland who served as the first Premier of the Bahamas (1964-67) was born 16th December 1898. In 1972, Sir Roland would have been 74 years old.
The youngest Member of Parliament was Darrell E. Rolle, Barrister representing Mangrove Cay, Andros for the PLP. Rolle was born in Lowe Sound, Andros on 8th June 1943. In 1972, Darrel Rolle would have been just twenty-nine years old.
Member of Parliament not born in The Bahamas
The Hon. Carlton E. Francis, PLP representative for South Beach, Minister of Finance, and Minister of Education and Culture was born in Miami, Florida on 14th November 1919.
Free PLP Party, Members of Parliament (prior to 19th September 1972)
Free PLP were the breakaway, eventually expelled, members of the Progressive Liberal Party.
Once a cohesive force in 1967, helping to form the first majority rule government, several party members, known in political history as the ‘Dissident Eight,’ grew increasingly disgruntled with the leadership of Premier, now Prime Minister Lynden Pindling.
Eight Free PLP members sat in the House of Assembly 1971-1972. By the end of 1972, they, and what remained of the United Bahamian Party, would join forces, to create a new political party called The Free National Movement (FNM).
Elwood Leroy Donaldson, Physician, Member of Parliament, Free PLP representative for Killarney. Donaldson was born on 30th March 1937.
George Lymon Thompson, Free PLP representative for Governor’s Harbour was a businessman and farmer. Born 11th December 1920 in Gregory Town, Eleuthera.
Maurice E. Moore, Free PLP representative for Grand Bahama was a trade union leader and insurance executive. Born 19th June 1939.
Warren J. Levarity, Member of Parliament, Free PLP representative for Bimini and West End, Grand Bahama was born 25th June 1932.
Arthur A. Foulkes, Free PLP representative for Grant’s Town was born 11th May 1928 in Inagua.
Curtis Clifford McMillan was a dentist by trade. McMillan was the Free PLP representative for Fort Charlotte. Born 26th February 1933 in Nassau.
Cecil Wallace Whitfield, Barrister-at-law, Free PLP representative for St. Agnes. Wallace Whitfield was born 20th March 1930.
James J. Shepherd, Free PLP representative for St. Michael, was born 21st July 1918.
United Bahamian Party Members of the House of Assembly 1971-1972 (prior to 19th September 1972)
Of the 38 Members of the House of Assembly now officially referred to as Members of Parliament, seven were members of the United Bahamian Party.
Technically, because the Free PLP had 8 sitting members and the UBP had 7, the Free PLP should have been named the official opposition party. However, the United Bahamian Party with Norman Solomon named as Opposition Whip, and Geoffrey Johnstone named Leader of the Opposition, it appears the UBP still carried this official designation despite not having majority opposition numbers.
Donald Edmund d’Albenas, Member of Parliament for the Clarence Town district. Owner/president of The d’Albenas Agency was born 22nd March 1916.
Robert Sherwin Archer, Member of Parliament for Marsh Harbour, Abaco was a grocer by trade. Archer was born 18th April 1902.
Peter Donald Graham, Member of Parliament for North End (Long Island), Rum Cay and San Salvador was a Barrister-at-law. Peter Graham was born in Nassau, 11th October 1927.
Cleophas Edwy Adderley, Member of Parliament for Nassau district. Adderley was a electrical contractor by profession. Born 30th January 1915 in Arthur’s Town, Cat Island.
Norman Stafford Solomon, Member of Parliament for St. George’s and Dunmore was a Bay Street merchant. Born 7th October 1929 in Nassau.
Geoffrey Adams Dinwiddie Johnstone, Member of Parliament for Fort Montague was also Leader of Opposition UBP. Johnstone was a barrister-at-law, born 19th September 1927.