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Walcott, Frank

Walcott, Frank

September 16, 1916
February 24, 1999


Frank Leslie Walcott was born in the parish of St. Peter on Barbados. His father died during Frank's infancy, and his mother, Marian Walcott, was a plantation worker who later migrated to the capital city of Bridgetown, where she worked as a domestic helper. After attending the Wesley Hall Boys' School, Walcott worked in two merchant houses in Bridgetown, where he observed the harsh conditions under which the Barbadian working class labored. Membership in the Weymouth Debating Club helped to round out his education, developed his talent for debate, and enabled him to establish contacts that would be important in later life.

In 1945 Walcott became an assistant to Hugh Springer, the general secretary of the Barbados Workers' Union (BWU) and a fellow member of Weymouth. In 1947, following Springer's resignation, Walcott acted as general secretary until he was formally elected to the post in 1948. He continued organizing as many sectors of the Barbadian working class as possible under the union's umbrella, increasing its social and political influence.

Walcott articulated the union's position on all social issues. The union helped to institutionalize industrial relations, successfully lobbied for labor and social legislation, established a credit union, strengthened its bureaucracy, and constructed modern physical facilities, a labor college, and housing for its membership.

Walcott was a member of the House of Assembly and, after breaking with Grantley Adams, premier and leader of the government and the Barbados Labour Party, in 1954, he became an independent. Later, he joined the Democratic Labour Party (DLP). He also served as president of the senate, wrote a newspaper column, and was Barbados's first ambassador to the United Nations. The BWU came of age during the era of British West Indian nationalism and economic modernization. In this, Walcott put the union's weight behind Barbados's national leadership.

Walcott remained a servant of the regional and international working class. Before ill health forced his retirement from public life in 1991, he was general secretary of the BWU for forty-three unbroken years and a longstanding member of regional and international labor organizations. He received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the University of the West Indies in 1987 and was made a Knight of St. Andrew in 1988. In 1998 he was declared a National Hero of Barbados. His work with the National Insurance Scheme was honored by the naming of its new complex in his honor. In a long, distinguished public career, he rose from the depths of the Barbadian working class and made the Barbados Workers' Union, and himself, respected both at home and abroad.

See also West Indies Democratic Labour Party

Bibliography

Mark, Francis. The History of the Barbados Workers' Union. Bridgetown: Barbados Workers' Union, c. 1966.

Morris, Robert, Leonard Shorey, and Ronnie Hughes. "Rt. Excellent Sir Frank Walcott, K.A. O.B.E. LL.D. The Days of the 'Boss' System Are Over." In For Love of Country: The National Heroes of Barbados, edited by Hilary McD. Beckles. St. Michael, Barbados: Foundation Publishing, 1998.

National Heroes of Barbados. Bridgetown: Barbados Government Information Service, 1998.

c. m. jacobs (2005)

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