The swearing in of Sir Arthur Foulkes this morning as Governor General of The Bahamas was an extremely joyous occasion for me personally and I could not allow it to pass without comment. It is no secret to those who were regular readers of my column OSWALD BROWN WRITES that I have a great deal of love and admiration for Sir Arthur. He is one of two individuals, the other being the late Sir Etienne Dupuch, who were responsible for laying the foundation for whatever I have accomplished in my almost fifty years as a journalist.
I first met Sir Arthur when I went to work with The Nassau Tribune as a trainee reporter in May of 1960 and he was that paper’s news editor. Like Sir Etienne, The Tribune’s publisher and editor at the time, he took a keen interest in my journalistic training, but Sir Arthur also provided me with wise counselling when my sometimes questionable behavior outside the work environment suggested that I needed his sage advice. I am a much better human being today because of the special interest he invested in my personal development.
Sir Arthur is unquestionably one of the most caring, decent, unselfish and committed individuals I have encountered in my lifetime. His more than fifty years involvement in politics provides a storehouse of evidence to support this contention. It is indisputable that he was supremely committed to the progressive struggle; indeed, a point that I often made in the past when discussing this issue is that no one individual in this country made a greater sacrifice to the struggle that led to the Progressive Liberal Party’s victory in the 1967 general election than Arthur Alexander Foulkes did. No one individual put as much as he did on the line in 1962 when he agreed to offer himself as a candidate for the PLP in the general election. Several of those who in later years basked in the glory of the PLP’s eventual victory in 1967 and became very wealthy because of their involvement in the PLP government flatly declined to run in 1962 when they were approached by the party because they did not want to jeopardize their comfortable jobs.
Not so with Sir Arthur. At the time, he had a very comfortable and financially rewarding job as news editor of The Tribune. He also had a huge family to support, including six or seven children at the time, but he nonetheless made a decision that very few people in his position would have had the courage to make, especially considering the area where the PLP had chosen for him to run. Arthur Foulkes and Arthur Hanna were the two PLP candidates in the Far Eastern District. Their United Bahamian Party (UBP) opponents were Jeffrey Johnstone and Pierre Dupuch, the son of his boss, Sir Etienne. Surely, Sir Arthur must have considered the prospect that his future employment at The Tribune would be jeopardized by his decision to run against the son of his boss. It took a special brand of courage for a young man with six or seven children to put his job on the line for a cause in which he believed.
In examining the pros and cons of making such a decision, he obviously had to think of how it would affect his family, but the PLP had made tremendous strides politically and, with women voting for the first time, the party appeared to be on the brink of defeating the UBP at the polls, if it could field a good slate of candidates. As it turned out, the PLP did not win the election, and Sir Arthur lost his bid for a seat in the House. The results may have been different for him, however, if supporters of the PLP had not been hoodwinked into thinking that both PLP candidates would win their seats, but it was important for Arthur Hanna to be elected as the senior representative. The voting process at the time allowed for the election of a senior and junior representative in some districts. Under this system, voters in areas where two candidates were running for a party could give each candidate a vote or to “plumper” one candidate by giving him both votes, but the two votes would only count as one. Arthur Hanna tallied the highest number of votes, including more than 100 plumper votes, to be elected as the senior member, while Mr. Johnstone finished second to be elected as the junior member. However, his margin of victory over Sir Arthur was less than 50 votes, which meant that if 51 of those who gave Mr. Hanna a plumper vote had supported Sir Arthur, he would have been the junior member.
After he failed in his bid for a House seat in 1962, Sir Arthur resigned from The Tribune to become the founding editor of The Bahamian Times, the official organ of the PLP. No one who was involved in the progressive struggle at the time can honestly dispute the fact that The Times played a key role in the PLP’s victory in 1967. But beyond the journalistic contributions Sir Arthur made in promoting the PLP and its message, he was one of the most sought-after speakers in the party because of his dynamic oratory.
In the historic 1967 elections, which ended centuries of white minority rule, he was the PLP’s candidate for the Grants Town constituency and emerged victorious. Over the subsequent years, he served his country in various capacities politically and in the diplomatic arena. It is therefore a more than well deserved honour that he has been sworn in as the eighth governor general of The Bahamas. Congratulations, my good friend and mentor. God is good.
Oswald T. Brown
Freeport, Grand Bahama