Sir John Compton ‘The Father of St. Lucia’

Former Prime Minister of St. Lucia Sir John Compton shown in Georgetown, Guyana July 1995.
Associated Press

Sir John George Melvin Compton (April 29, 1925 – Sept. 7., 2007) was renowned as “Daddy Compton” and the “Father of St. Lucia.”

Sir John served as the prime minister of St. Lucia on three occasions: Briefly in 1979, again from 1982 to 1996, and from 2006 until his death in 2007.

Compton, who previously led St. Lucia under British rule from 1964 to 1979, was the country’s first leader when the country became independent in February 1979.

He led the conservative United Workers Party (UWP) from 1964 until 1996, and again from 2005 to 2007.

Compton was born in 1925 in Canouan in the St. Vincent Grenadines, and taken to St. Lucia in September 1939, according to Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

While studying law and economics, Compton attended the University College of Wales from 1948 to 1949 and the London School of Economics from 1949 to 1951. He was called to the Bar on Aug. 7. 1951.

Compton’s political career began in 1954, when he ran as an independent for the seat from Micoud/Dennery and was elected.

He was appointed to the Executive Council and, under the Committee System then used, became Member for Social Affairs until the end of the Committee System in 1956, Wikipedia said.

It said that, in the latter year, Compton joined the St. Lucia Labor Party (SLP).

He notably participated in a sugar workers’ strike in 1957, and was fined for obstructing roads, according to Wikipedia.

Re-elected in 1957, Compton became minister for trade and production in 1958, and also became deputy leader of the SLP, under George Charles.

In 1960, Sir John was named minister of trade and industry under Charles, who became chief minister.

Compton was again re-elected in 1961, but chose not to join the Executive Council. Objecting to the choice of ministers, he quit the SLP, and along with his supporters, he formed a new party, the National Labor Movement, in the same year, Wikipedia said.

In 1964, together with another opposition party, the People’s Progressive Party, Compton and the National Labor Movement formed a new party, the United Workers’ Party (UWP). This new party won the election held in June 1964, with Compton becoming Chief Minister.

In office, Compton worked for St. Lucia’s independence from British rule, Wikipedia said.

When St. Lucia became an Associated State of the United Kingdom, a move closer to independence that placed the St. Lucian government fully in charge of the island’s internal affairs, on Mar.1, 1967, Compton became St. Lucia’s first and only premier.

Following the UWP’s victory in the 1974 election, Compton pushed for negotiations leading to independence, which was achieved on Feb.22, 1979; Compton became the newly independent nation’s first prime minister, Wikipedia said.

But a few months after independence, the UWP was defeated in the general election by the SLP, and Compton became Leader of the Opposition.

The SLP government collapsed in January 1982, and the UWP won the subsequent election in May 1982, with Compton becoming prime minister again, according to Wikipedia.

Compton remained in office until he retired in 1996; he was replaced by his chosen successor, Vaughan Lewis. Compton became a legal consultant.

But on March 13, 2005, the UWP elected Compton, then 80 years old, as its leader again at a party convention in Soufriere, receiving 260 votes against 135 for Vaughan Lewis.

In spite of being labeled a geriatric by the governing SLP, Sir John led the UWP to a surprising victory on Dec. 11 2006, Wikipedia said.

Compton was sworn in as prime minister on Dec. 15.

His immense popularity was sustained through three generations — “so much so that when he returned to the fray for the very last time in the elections of 2006, after being 10 years and two elections away, he was bluntly told by supporters that he need not organize any major campaign,” according to Wikipedia.

The result: Compton easily won the contest by more than 1,000 votes to become the representative of Micoud North for the very first time.

On May1, 2007, Compton was hospitalized in New York City after he suffered a series of strokes, which left him physically impaired, said Wikipedia, adding that he fell ill while visiting a doctor for a normal checkup.

On May 16, Leonard Montoute, who served as St. Lucia’s sports minister and deputy leader of the UWP, said that Compton was unable to stand or walk on his own and that the cabinet would select a new prime minister to lead the island-nation.

Compton returned to St. Lucia on May 19 and temporarily resumed power in early June to oversee a Cabinet reshuffle, in which he remained prime minister but gave up the finance portfolio to Acting Prime Minister Stephenson King.

On Sept.1, Compton was flown to Martinique for treatment of his pneumonia, according to Wikipedia. While there, his condition worsened and he was placed on a ventilator.

On Sept. 4, doctors decided that his condition was hopeless, and the next day, he was returned to the Tapion Hospital in St. Lucia to die, Wikipedia said. He died there on Sept. 7, 2007.

“Compton was typical of a generation of Caribbean politicians whose careers were launched on the back of anti-colonial sentiment, but whose pragmatism made them essentially conservative leaders,” the British Guardian said.

“During his career, in a trajectory familiar to small Caribbean islands, St. Lucia changed from a neglected, semi-feudal backwater with a large, depressed peasantry into an independent state that saw tourism displace agriculture as the economic driving force,” it added.

The Guardian said Compton was “a small, energetic man, born on Canouan, a tiny, bone-dry island, part of St Vincent and the Grenadines, south of St. Lucia, and the home of his mother.”

The paper said Compton arrived in St. Lucia as a teenager and was brought up by his uncle, a master mariner and successful businessman from the east coast.

“The fact that Compton was not by birth a St. Lucian was sometimes held against him, as was the fact that his parents were unmarried,” the Guardian said.

But it noted that Compton had overseen the political evolution of St. Lucia.

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