Royal Bahamas Police Force and Defence Force officers, along with Parliamentary and Honourary Pallbearers walk the processional route at the State Funeral for former Cabinet Minister Dr. Curtis McMillan held at the Hillview Seventh Day Adventist Church on Monday January 21, 2008. (Photos/Patrick Hanna)
By Clunis Devaney
NASSAU, Bahamas – Hundreds of mourners attended the State Funeral Service for Dr. Curtis Clifford McMillan, who was hailed as a nation-builder and a man who gave generously of time, energy and resources to the Bahamian people.
Governor General, His Excellency the Hon. Arthur Hanna and Prime Minister the Rt. Honourable Hubert Ingraham led mourners at the service held at the Hillview Seventh-Day Adventist Church.
Dr. McMillan died on January 13. He was 74.
The professional dentist was a member of the first Majority Rule Cabinet appointed by the late Sir Lynden Pindling following the historic January 10, 1967 general election. He was given a full ceremonial burial by representatives of the Royal Bahamas Police Force and the Royal Bahamas Defence Force.
A representative group of Members of Parliament, including Cabinet Ministers and Opposition, served as honorary pallbearers.
Last week, the body of Dr. McMillan reposed in state in the foyer of the House of Assembly where he served as a member from 1967 to 1972.
Prime Minister Ingraham in his national tribute said Dr. McMillan was “committed” to nation-building.
“Despite his numerous personal accomplishments,” said Mr. Ingraham, “he was committed to building a better Bahamas for all. He was intently interested in the education and the development of future generations of Bahamians, this was borne out by the many scholarships he provided to numerous young Bahamians which enabled them to pursue their studies abroad.”
Mr. Ingraham noted that persons who shared Dr. McMillan’s thirst and appreciation for knowledge were given sound educational opportunities.
“Curtis McMillan was indeed a nation-builder,” Mr. Ingraham stated. “He loved this country and its people and gave generously of his time, his energy and his resources in their service.
“His considerable contribution to the political and social development of The Bahamas must not be forgotten.”
The Prime Minister indicated that the true test of a man’s life and character often comes down to whether he was able to meet and overcome challenges that came his way.
“Curtis Clifford McMillan passed that test during a lifetime that began quite humbly nearly 75 years ago,” Mr. Ingraham stated.
He said despite suffering defeat and humiliation, Dr. McMillan achieved personal and professional highs, and he persevered.
“Dr. McMillan was a Bahamian whose courage in a time of challenge contributed significantly to the historic changes that took place in our Bahamas during the 1960s and 1970s,” said Mr. Ingraham.
“He was one of that celebrated band of change agents who were elected in the 1967 general election to usher in Majority Rule, and one of those who in 1970 placed everything on the line, once again, to ensure the development and the growth of our multi-party parliamentary democracy.”
The Prime Minister emphasized that the former parliamentarian was a man of many firsts:
He became the first Bahamian to graduate from West Indies College (Jamaica) in 1952.
He became the first Bahamian, four years later, to graduate from Pacific Union College in California, United States of America.
In 1962, Dr. McMillan became the first Bahamian to graduate from Howard Dental School in Washington, D.C.
As the first Minister of Communications in the Progressive Liberal Party government, Dr. McMillan’s portfolio included the airport, maritime affairs and telecommunications.
“He contributed significantly to the development of plans for the design and construction of the Central Post Office, which still stands today on East Hill Street,” said Mr. Ingraham.
The Prime Minister noted that the recently opened MedDentCo Medical Centre “is a major advance” in the modernization of a dental infrastructure.
MedDentCo Medical Centre was created by Dr. McMillan and his son, Curtis O. McMillan, M.D. It is a state-of-the-art, multi-specialty, medical complex and surgery centre which include a pharmacy, ophthalmology clinic and a medical laboratory.
Prime Minister Ingraham noted that Dr. McMillan was also one of the “Dissident Eight” who parted company with the PLP in 1970 and formed the Free National Movement. He served as the first secretary general of the fledgling party.
Also paying tribute was Sir Arthur Foulkes, who was also elected to the House in the historic January 10, 1967 election and was one of the “Dissident Eight.”
Sir Arthur noted that of the 20 gallant men who made it possible for “Majority Rule” to come about, only eight are alive today. He noted also that of the “Dissident Eight” there are only four still alive.
Sir Arthur described his long-time friend as one who possessed a rare combination of gifts that made him an extraordinary and interesting human being.
“He was obviously one destined to succeed wherever he chose to apply his considerable intellect and his capacity for enterprise,” said Sir Arthur. “He was a visionary and a dreamer, but he heeded the poet’s advice not to make dreams his master so he set about transforming his many dreams into accomplishments.
“One of his dreams was realized recently with the opening of MedDentCo, an impressive high-technology health care facility he had been working towards for several years.”
Sir Arthur said Dr. McMillan had a passionate commitment to his native land.
Former President of the Bahamas Conference of Seventh-day, Dr. Hugh A. Roach, who knew Dr. McMillan as a youngster growing up in the Grant’s Town area of New Providence, delivered the homily.