March 15, 1921
December 28, 2000
Vivian Osmond Scott Blake was born in St. James, Jamaica, to Rufus Alexander Blake, a schoolmaster, and Florence Maud Blake (neé Scott). He was educated at Wolmer's Boys School in Kingston and studied law at Gray's Inn, London, from 1945 to 1948, when he was called to the Jamaican Bar. Having worked at the law firm run by statesman Norman Manley, Blake was regarded Manley's potential successor as leading Jamaican barrister. Blake held offices as president of the Jamaican Bar Association and chairman of the Bar Council's Disciplinary Committee, and he reached the pinnacle of his legal career when he became chief justice of the Bahamas.
Blake entered politics in 1962, the year of Jamaica's independence from British rule. He was appointed member of the Legislative Council and later made senator when the Council was replaced by the Senate. Blake served in the Senate as leader of opposition business until 1967 when he successfully contested a seat for South Eastern St. Elizabeth in the House of Representatives. He rose to become vice president of the People's National Party (PNP) and unsuccessfully ran for president against Michael Manley on February 9, 1969. When the PNP came to government in 1972, Blake was appointed to the cabinet and given the portfolio of minister of marketing and commerce in 1974. He was in charge of the trade administrator's department, the prices commission, Jamaican Nutrition Holdings, and the Agricultural Marketing Corporation. In 1975 Blake briefly served as minister of health and the environment.
As minister of marketing and commerce, Blake presided over a difficult period in the Jamaican economy, when trade restrictions were enforced due to economic constraints. Controversial issues emerged regarding import licenses, quotas, price controls, and negotiations with taxi operators arising from an increase in the price of gasoline. He was also part of the failed negotiations with Jamaica Flour Mills over government participation in the ownership of the company. Whereas the price of such commodities as as gasoline, cooking gas and cement increased, Blake was responsible for price reductions of other products, including tinned corn beef, bread, counter flour, and rice. His handling of these and other issues earned him the esteem of the majority of the Jamaican people.
Blake's political career ended in 1978 when he resigned as the member of parliament for North Eastern St. Ann, the seat he won in July 1973 after ceasing to represent South Eastern St. Elizabeth a year earlier. His official reason for resigning was his acceptance of an appointment to the bench of the Supreme Court in the Bahamas. However, the announcement of his resignation followed a disagreement he had with the PNP executive committee concerning his right to speak and vote as he did on a bill before the House in February of that year. Though this was resolved, Blake left for the Bahamas, where he rose to become chief justice until his retirement in 1984 when he left for England. He remained there for ten years while practicing as a legal consultant for overseas clients.
Blake eventually returned to Jamaica and resumed his law practice as a senior member of the legal firm of Myers, Fletcher and Gordon. He was an avid sportsman with an interest in cricket, boxing, rifle shooting, and horse racing.
See also Manley, Norman; People's National Party; Politics
Hurwitz, Samuel J., and Edith F. Hurwitz. Jamaica: A Historical Portrait. London: The Pall Mall, 1971.
Stone, Carl, and Aggrey Brown, eds. Perspectives on Jamaica in the Seventies. Kingston, Jamaica: Jamaica Publishing House, 1981.
nicole plummer (2005)