Mandeville Mayor Charlton passes in Jamaica

Mayor Cecil Charlton and Winsome Charlton.
Photo by Vinette K. Pryce
By Vinette K. Pryce

Jamaicans are grieving the passing of Cecil Charles Charlton, CD, JP — one of the island’s most popular mayor and city champions.

Of the 32 parishes throughout the nation, in no other city is a mayor is as revered as Mayor Charlton. Long after his retirement more than two decades ago, the title remains a first-name and permanent fixture.

How such an indelible title became a fixture might be fodder for a biopic or feature film.

The number one citizen of the city of Mandeville, lived a kind of rags to riches existence Hollywood reveres.

And for a Caribbean man – 13th child born – and raised on the generosity of the Salvation Army to emerge a millionaire is certainly a script worthy of high definition and even 3-D viewing.

He was the last of 13 children born to a humble couple on April 6, 1925.

He attended public school but dropped out at the age of 11 allegedly due to low finances.

Introduced to horse-racing at the age of 12, the young Charlton immersed himself deeply in the business of the sport. His gamble paid off handily and in the process he operated a chain of outlets he named Charles Off-course betting.

In and out of the city of Mandeville his betting shops grew opening in many towns throughout the country.

Legend claims he acquired many race-horses, numbering at peak to 45 equestrian winners conditioned by five different trainers in 1977. In 1976 he was crowned a champion owner with 33 wins and repeated the feat in 1977 with 44 victories. He was inducted into the Racing’s Hall Of Fame in 2006.

He named many of his horses, with tongue in cheek, after himself and other family members – “Mr. C,” “Call Me Ces,” “Maas Charles,” “The Mayor Himself,” “Lover Boy Ces,” “Cecil’s Boy,” “Mr. Mandeville,” “Miss Manchester,” “Cecil’s Darling,” “I Shall Return,” and “Miss Muff” (named for the nickname he called his daughter Winsome).

Described as a ‘voracious’ reader Charlton introduced himself to a new word each day through a dictionary that he often took on road trips from Mandeville to the principal race track located closer to the Kingston capital in Spanish Town.

Simultaneous to his successes on the track, he spiraled up winning election as mayor the same year Jamaica achieved independence. From 1962 through the 70s and 80s he served under both the Jamaica Labor Party and the People’s National Party.

Mayor Charlton was hailed in life as super and a long list of exemplary adjectives. In addition to his political achievement in the 1960s Mayor Charlton owned the Green Heights entertainment club and a fleet of eleven radio-controlled Windsor taxicabs based in his hometown.

He taught himself plumbing by keen observation of skilled artisans at the craft. Among the plumbing jobs that he undertook was the installation of gutters around the Mandeville courthouse. His personal crowning glory might be construction of a 10-bedroom, 10-bathroom, octagonal, hilltop glass-house he resided. Visible for miles, from the outside winding through the living room, a swimming pool centers the flora and fauna to attract tourists and locals he invited to tour.

The house remains a landmark and one of Mandeville’s must-see attractions.

In the city he ruled for decades, a park, library, hospital, schools and children are named in his honor. Mayor Charlton became legendary because of his ambition and achievements.

He remained legendary because of his service and generosity.

He adored the parish he was born and ensured its reputation of being the coolest and most clean parish.

A popular story often repeated lauds Mayor Charlton for relocating — to another parish –the first homeless man he spotted in Mandeville. Allegedly, the mayor personally escorted the individual to a border town by driving him out with a threat never to return in the condition he had subsided.

And while he was strict on keeping up appearances, Charlton’s philanthropy has been legendary. He bought Mandeville’s first ambulance with his own funds and handed it over to the health authorities. He donated his mayor’s salary to the Salvation Army, in which his mother had brought him up. He was a generous contributor to a wide range of causes that he considered worthy. When a Manchester policeman was killed in the line of duty, Charlton offered to finance the education of his daughter provided that she performed satisfactorily at school and he monitored her school reports and honored his pledge. He financed the education of many other children of the parish.

Mayor Charlton was visited by some of the world’s supreme leaders, among them Emperor Haile Selassie I, Britain’s Princess Margaret and prime ministers from many countries. The mayor, businessman, millionaire and Mandeville ambassador died Sept. 12 in the beloved parish he spent most of his 88 years.

A public funeral will accommodate thousands wishing to bid him farewell on Oct. 6.

“He loved the people and they loved him therefore we will be having an outdoor service where residents of Mandeville can all see him,” Winsome told Caribbean Life.

Speakers will include representatives from both political parties including Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, the opposition JLP’s Audley Shaw as well as numerous dignitaries.

A memorial service will also be held in south Florida next month.

He was preceded in death by his first wife Louise who was the mother of Donald, Cecil (Junior) and Winsome ‘Lady C” Charlton.

During his mayoralty in 1977, he remarried Veronica Bateman who bore him a son named David.

Mayor Charlton is mourned by many surrogate and adopted children, grand children, nieces, nephews and friends throughout the Caribbean and world.

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