In 1938, Milo Butler, was an obscure negro grocer. Butler, described by all who knew him as a seriously religious man, had the temerity to run for a seat in the Bahamas Assembly against a recent resident, Canadian multimillionaire, Harry Oakes.

Milo Butler couldn’t have known that the whole by-election was a set up. It was all just a plot to keep Harry Oakes, and his millions, in the Bahamas.

(Palm Beach Post, Tuesday, 21 June 1938)


In 1938, grovelling at the feet of the vast amounts of money Harry Oakes was liberally spreading all over the Bahamas, the merchant class, invited the multimillionaire to run for a sure seat in the Assembly. This would soon pave the way for Oakes’ knighthood.

White elites who controlled government were desperate. Oakes was losing interest in the Bahamas. Despite all the grovelling, and heaping more and more ridiculous titles on the Canadian millionaire, Oakes’ attention was turning elsewhere.

Members of the merchant class telephoned Oakes, all the way in London, to invite him to run in a hastily conceived by-election.

The merchant class of Nassau needed a white representative for the area in the Western District. There was no better person than the man whose money was already funding major economic expansion in the Bahamas, their man was Harry Oakes.

Inviting Harry Oakes to run accomplished something else of greater importance for the desperate merchant class who controlled both politics and commerce. They needed Harry Oakes to stay firmly wedded to the Bahamas. Bay Street was getting nervous that Harry Oakes was already bored with the barren, dry Bahama islands. By 1938, Oakes was spending months and months at a time in London and elsewhere. He was in London when they called to ask him to run for the Assembly. By having Oakes win, he would have no choice but to return to the Bahamas along with his millions.

The Western District seat had been occupied by Alfred Francis Adderley (A. F. Adderley), a Negro barrister-at-law.

Adderley was suddenly elevated, promoted as they called it, to the Legislative Council. This move left a key seat vacant in the Assembly. The merchant class needed to get rid of A. F. Adderley. They needed him out of the Assembly and definitely out as political representative for the Western District. Big things were going to happen in the West. Large scale residential expansion which would be designated as exclusive, whites only, was taking shape. They didn’t need Adderley questioning it or poking his nose in where it didn’t belong.

All major commerce flowing through the islands was controlled by the merchant class who controlled Bay Street. Bay Street, in the heart of the capital city of Nassau, was the epicentre of business for the entire colony. It was also the seat of political power. In 1938, the Western District of New Providence, the seat of the contested by-election was seeing unprecedented investment and expansion.

Never mind that Harry Oakes wasn’t Bahamian, or even born in the Bahamas.

Never mind Oakes had only arrived in the Bahamas just three years prior to 1938.

Never mind that Oakes wasn’t even in the Bahamas to announce his candidacy, or even made the slightest attempt to campaign. In fact, Harry Oakes was in London the entire time, and did not step foot back in Nassau until after the election was over.

Never mind that Oakes’ money had already bought political influence. Harry had already made a justice of the peace and appointed as a member of the government board of works by Governor Sir Beds Clifford, and reappointed each year by Governor Charles Dundas.

Oakes, it was said, never attended a single meeting.

(The Gazette, Montreal Canada, Tuesday , 05 July 1938)

Never mind that when everyone in Nassau heard that Harry Oakes was running, they all withdrew out of fear. Thaddeus Augustus Toote (T. A. Toote), a Negro barrister-at-law, and former member of the Assembly, quickly withdrew when it was made known that Harry Oakes would contest the Seat also.

(The Gazette, Montreal Canada, Tuesday , 05 July 1938)

It seems nobody was willing to get on the wrong side of the government and it’s golden goose, Harry Oakes.

No one that is, except for, Milo Butler.

(Pensacola News Journal, Monday, 04 July 1938)

1938 The Petty Shop Grocer versus the Canadian Multimillionaire

With 85 percent of the 1,000 registered voters being negro, everyone knew Milo Butler was never going to win that by-election.

(Winnipeg Tribune, Monday, 04 July 1938)

In 1938, the secret ballot had not been implemented. The voting process in the Bahamas was still archaic, and intimidating. Only men of a certain age being owners of property, of a certain size and value, were allowed to vote. The company vote was also allowed. Every business had a vote, so if you owned several businesses, one man had several votes.

To vote, one had to stand in the middle of the voting room and shout out who you were voting for.

Some 538 men went to the polls and shouted the name of Harry Oakes. They did this despite Oakes not being on the island at any point during the campaign period. Only Milo Butler was in Nassau to campaign. Butler only got 70 votes.

Butler polled less than one-sixth of the total vote and lost his $250 deposit.

(Nevada State Journal, Tuesday , 05 July 1938)

(The Gazette, Montreal Canada, Tuesday , 05 July 1938)


Even if Bahamians thought it odd that Harry Oakes wasn’t even a Bahamian, had only arrived in the Bahamas in 1935, but by 1938 he was a Member of the Assembly, and had not campaigned or was not even in fact on the island for months prior to the election and after, they said nothing. They were too afraid to.