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Vere Bird

Biography

Antiguan Government Officials

Date of Birth (DOB): 12/9/1909
Died: 6/28/99
From: Antigua and Barbuda
Best Known for: "Papa Bird" father of Antigua and Barbuda

Bio: Vere Cornwall Bird Snr. was born the third of four children to very humble beginnings in St. Johns, Antigua. Bird joined the Salvation Army as a teenager and served in Grenada after receiving his training in Trinidad.Bird returned to Antigua and on the 16th of January 1939, he was elected to the Executive of the newly formed Antigua Trades and Labour Union.) In 1943 he became the President of the Labor Union, the following year he was elected to become a member of the Legislative assembly. In 1947 he attended and the Montego Bay conference in Jamaica in 1947 laying the ground work for the ill fated of the West Indies Federation. Bird remained a firm supporter of Caribbean Regionalism and was one of the founders of Caribbean Free Trade Association (CARIFTA) an organization that would later become Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM.)

Advances with the LTU, such as a program that would build 1,130 houses, rights for workers and better access to electricity in rural areas led to a victory of all 8 elected seats in the Legislature In 1951 by Union representatives. V. C. Bird Snr. was made one of three chairmen of committees in the Executive Council.V C Bird Snr. was appointed the first Chief Minister of Antigua On 11 January 1960. Bird, who had only an elementary school education, built the Princess Margaret School in 1955 and the second Government Secondary School in 1961.

In 1967, Antigua received statehood and Bird became the Island’s first premier. The following year the ATLU split into rival factions loosing grip of their exclusive hold of Antiguas politics. The splinter group, the Progressive Labour Movement (PLM) won the election of 1971 installing Birds former ally George Walter as the new Premier. Five years later Bird became the Premier once again campaigning against independence on the argument that the country was not yet ready. He would win once again in 1980 campaigning this time for independence. He would fulfill his promise becoming the first Prime Minister after leading his country to independence on Nov. 1 1981 and continue in this capacity until March 1994 retiring at the age of 83 after preparing his 2nd son Lester Bird to take over. Among Bird’s most significant contributions to Antigua and Barbuda was the development of tourism and services helping Antigua and Barbuda to diversify from sugar.

“Papa Bird” as he was affectionately known was a tall, imposing and often unorthodox individual who was loved by most and sometimes criticized for some of his ruling methods and the alleged corruption of his government (his son was arrested with cocaine.) Bird declined to be knighted by the Queen, opting instead to receive local Knighthood in November of 1998. Bird also received the Order of the Caribbean Community from CARICOM, he was named as his countrys first National Hero in 1994. Sir Vere Cornwall Bird died at the Holberton Hospital on the evening of June 28, 1999 at 89 years of age.

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