TRIBUTE TO NORMAN WASHINGTON MANLEY ON THE 108TH ANNIVERSARY OF HIS BIRTH 2001 JULY 04
Today we pay tribute to Norman Washington Manley - track star, Rhodes scholar, World War One hero, first class honours student, one of the region's most brilliant lawyers Kings Counsel, Premier, nation builder, one of the fathers of the nation.
Just who was this giant of a man?
To his granddaughter Rachel he was "Pardi," and she boldly states in her book "Drumblair" that - "Pardi was a handsome man. As far as I am concerned, he was the most handsome man in the world. His father …must have had some East Indian blood. His mother… was a mulatto. The mixtures produced an uncommon harmony in Pardi. He had comparatively aquiline features, with deep- set communicative eyes, a "noble Roman nose" that made his face strong and distinguished, and a slight mouth which actually seemed unintrusive rather than mean. His face expressed all the good qualities of life: intelligence, kindness, generosity, strength and courage, humour, gentleness, compassion and love. He was five feet ten inches tall, with long slim limbs and slender feet, which Mardi claimed were aristocratic. His being were one of quiet thoughtfulness. He was the colour of warm mahogany, warm and glowing."
A doting granddaughter's bias - many will tell you - "no!".
To the people in his community where he grew up, he was someone who loved speed, and not just on the track. After all, this was the man who held the school boy record for the 100 yards dash for 30 years. But Norman was also well known as a rider of speedy horses, always galloping through the community and constantly being warned by the police. This love of speed transferred itself to automobiles which often landed him in trouble. There is a well-known story of how he once plummeted down a deep precipice at Mavis Bank in his car, but fortunately walked away without serious injuries.
To the sporting fraternity, he was not just a great athlete -in 1911 he had set five records at Boys Champs. He was a lover of sports and lent order to the sector and facilitated its growth in the country.
In 1929, his love for boxing led him to spearhead the formation of the Jamaica Boxing Board of Control. After drafting its constitution, he was elected its first president. Welcoming and hosting the outstanding heavyweight boxer Joe Louis, in Jamaica, was one of the highlights of his tenure in that office.
Norman spearheaded the formation of the Jamaica Olympic Association, drafted its constitution, and helped to organize Jamaica's team to the second Central American and Caribbean Games.
However, perhaps the most fitting memorial to his belief in the importance of sports in development is the National Stadium. After accepting an invitation to host the ninth Central American and Caribbean Games, N.W. threw his energies into the construction of that edifice which was completed in 1962.
To persons in the arts and culture, Norman was a patron.
He had a deep love for classical music and in fact wrote musical critiques for the Daily Gleaner in the 1930's, reviewing the works of visiting performers and local musicians.
And, during his tenure as Premier, he facilitated the establishment of the Jamaica School of Music with Government funding.
We are told that he was a writer of poetry, and prose.
He was also associated with the fine arts. The Jamaica Welfare Limited, now the Social Development Commission, which he founded, partly funded the establishment of the Junior Centre of the Institute of Jamaica. One of the earliest activities there were Saturday art classes with his wife Edna, as tutor.
His home, Drumblair, was a regular meeting place for persons in the arts. He helped to facilitate the emerging Jamaican literary and artistic movements.
This is another side of this great advocate and statesman, Norman Washington Manley, who among other things-
Was one of the main negotiators during the period of labour unrest in 1938. He mediated between the disgruntled workers and their vocal leaders, and the Colonial Governor. This led to the formation of a Conciliation Board and to the release of Alexander Bustamante and St. William Grant who had been arrested; Was the undisputed leader of the Jamaican Bar between 1932 and 1955. We are told that his clients, whether they were rich or poor, could have no more able a defender than N.W. Manley. He accepted cases that other lawyers thought were hopeless, and embraced the causes of his clients with passion and dedication; Helped to form the Jamaica Banana Producers' Association; Saw to the formation of the Bank of Jamaica; Saw to the formation of the Central Planning Unit, now the Planning Institute of Jamaica, to coordinate the development planning of the country; Saw to the establishment of the Scientific Research Council to promote industrial and scientific development; Established the Jamaica Welfare Limited, now the Social Development Commission, which touched on every area of rural life, educating and assisting rural groups with projects which resulted in better housing, economic independence, individual pride and confidence, which were crucial in the development of modern Jamaica; Saw to the construction of the two international airports, one of which bears his name; Was leader and co-founder of the first political party to survive in modern Jamaica; Fought for self-government in a climate largely hostile to the idea; Arranged for constitutional reform to lead to self-government; Helped to bring about universal adult suffrage in 1944; Became Chief Minister of the country in 1955; Achieved full internal self-government for Jamaica in 1959; Was instrumental in framing Jamaica's Independence Constitution and is in fact considered to be the architect of the new Jamaica.
And this is why we are proud of this Jamaican, the Rt. Ex. Norman Washington Manley. A man who is described as being "in every sense - monumental."
A grateful nation says thanks.
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