Gairy, Eric (1922–1997)

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Gairy, Eric (1922–1997)

Eric Gairy, a Grenadian politician, was born of peasant parents near Grenville, Grenada, on February 18, 1922. In the early 1940s he migrated to Trinidad and from there to Aruba to work in the ESSO refinery. It was on that Dutch island that he got involved in the trade union movement. Made unwelcome by the Dutch, Gairy returned to Grenada in December 1949 and began organizing the Grenada Manual and Mental Workers' Union. His immediate targets were the low wages paid on the cocoa and sugar estates. The successful strike of 1951 launched Gairy on a political career as head of the Grenada United Labour Party. In 1954 he was elected chief minister of the colonial government. In 1957 he became a minister in the West Indies Federation until its collapse in 1962. Elected premier in 1967, he became Grenada's first prime minister when it became independent in 1974. Knighted by the Queen, he earned the title Sir Eric Gairy. At the same time his behavior became increasingly bizarre—he called on the United Nations to investigate a threat from UFOs—and his politics increasingly oppressive. The elections of 1974 were probably tampered with. In March 1979 a coup d'etat led by Maurice Bishop and the New Jewel Movement overthrew his regime. Upon the collapse of the Bishop regime in 1983, Gairy returned to Grenada in 1984 from exile in the United States. He was already semi-incapacitated and died of a stroke in 1997.

See alsoBishop, Maurice; Grenada; West Indies Federation.


Singham, A. W. The Hero and the Crowd in a Colonial Polity. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1968.

Thorndike, Tony. Grenada: Politics, Economics and Society. Boulder, CO: L. Rienner, 1985.

                              Anthony P. Maingot