Official funeral for Dudley Thompson

Journalist Vinette K. Pryce (left) with Dudley Thompson in Ethiopia.
Photo courtesy Vinette K. Pryce
Photo courtesy Vinette K. Pryce

Jamaica’s Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller announced in Parliament that Dudley Joseph Thompson, the island’s “dedicated politician and public servant” will be given an official send-off by the government.

According to reports, on Feb. 10 the former parliamentarian will be afforded an official burial ceremony with rites celebrated at the Most Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church in Kingston.

During a recent session of Parliament, the leader said the much-revered comrade would be afforded the highest honor barring those bestowed to governor generals and prime ministers with state funerals.

Thompson celebrated his 95th birthday in Florida and was set to share the sentiments of his milestone anniversary by travelling to New Jersey to join friends when he suffered a stroke and died there. The revered Oxford University Rhodes Scholar, lawyer, flight officer, politician, ambassador, Pan-African advocate, negotiator, father and husband died on Jan. 20. Two days after his passing, the Panama-born Jamaican was regaled by his colleague Dr. Leonard Jeffries who invited him here to join him for a birthday celebration marking his 73 years.

Thompson was no stranger to the Garden State or the Big Apple. He travelled often to talk about his life as an attorney for accused Mau Mau leader who became Kenya’s President Jomo Kenyatta. Thompson represented his country as ambassador to Namibia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Ghana.

He is reputed for his vociferous advocacy for reparations.

In Jamaica, stalwarts of his rival political Jamaica Labor Party still will recall Thompson’s comment after five men were allegedly gunned down by soldiers near a military base.

“No angels died at Green Bay,” Thompson allegedly said in defiance.

In death, it remains a mention in this and other obituaries.

From 1972 to 1976, Thompson served his government in the senate and was tasked to execute the duties of minister of state in the ministry of foreign affairs from 1975 to 1977.

He also served as minister of mining and energy from 1977 to 1978 and minister of national security from 1978-1980.

Thompson was vice president and later chairman of the People’s National Party.

While in that position, Thompson and his opposition party leader Edward Seaga were regarded as fierce combatants both competitors for the West Kingston seat of government. The Jamaica Labor Party leader took the nod in 1962 and Thompson declared him “necessary for Jamaica.”

Throughout the years, the two developed a pleasant and personal friendship.

“While we did not meet frequently, when we met it was in friendship. He was accustomed, when he travelled, to bring back a little gift for my wife, a token which we appreciated,” Seaga reportedly said.

“At times, as minister of national security, he would call me to visit trouble spots in West Kingston together when there was an outbreak of violence. This was naturally satisfying to us both,” the former prime minister added.

In recent years, Thompson has shuttled to the African continent. In 2005, he headed a delegation from the USA/Jamaica to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in order to address a symposium celebrating the life of Bob Marley. At the United Nations there, he explored and exalted the lyrics penned by the reggae singer and explained in detail the “Africa Unite” mantra which he is known to promote as a member of the Africa Union.

Thompson’s alliances with Cuba’s Fidel Castro, Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah, Trinidad’s George Padmore and Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie as other world leaders are well documented.

The Caribbean is now grieving another pioneering politician whose negotiating skills helped the nation become an independent country.

One week after Thompson’s passing this columnist inquired about an obituary book nationals might sign at the Jamaica Consulate. A spokesperson said she was unaware of any such book but would inform the public if or when such a book is placed in memory of the Hon. Dudley Thompson.

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