Bird, Vere Cornwall (1909–1999)

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Bird, Vere Cornwall (1909–1999)

Vere Cornwall Bird Sr. (December 7/9?, 1909–June 29?, 1999) was born to a working-class single mother in St. John's in what was then the British colony of Antigua. Although he had only a primary school education, Bird gained organizational experience through his work with the Salvation Army in Trinidad and Grenada. Following region-wide labor unrest in the late 1930s, Bird joined the fledgling trade union movement and in 1939 was elected to the executive board of the Antigua Trades and Labour Union (ATLU). In 1944 he was elected to the colonial legislature. When Britain granted partial internal self-government to the island in 1960, Bird led his Antigua Labour Party (ALP) to power and became Antigua's first chief minister. In 1967 Antigua was granted full self-rule, and Bird became its first premier, becoming Antigua's first prime minister when independence was granted in 1981. Bird (with his two sons, Vere Jr. and Lester) governed Antigua (corruptly, it is alleged) until 1994, when, at age 83, he retired. Bird brought a measure of development to Antigua as he oversaw the difficult economic shift from sugar to tourism. He was an avid promoter of regionalism and was one of the founders of the Caribbean Free Trade Association (CARIFTA). He was the first person to be declared a national hero of Antigua and Barbuda.

See alsoAntigua; Barbuda.

                                   Anthony P. Maingot