Former President of Barbados’ Senate passed away on morning of February 15, 2013
One of the founding fathers of modern Barbados, Sir Branford Taitt played a key role in remaking the island’s economy, improving health care for Barbadians and promoting educational exchanges between institutions of higher learning in Barbados, its neighbouring islands and the United States.
Sir Branford was born of humble beginnings in Fairfield, Black Rock St. Michael, the youngest of five (5) children born to St. Clair Rollock and Elma Taitt-Rollock. He received his formal education at Wesley Hall Boys School and Combermere School. He was soprano soloist in St. Michael’s Cathedral choir under the leadership of the late Gerald Hudson. On completion of his secondary education, Sir Branford, spent his first working years with Cable and Wireless in Barbados and Antigua. He later followed his future bride Marjorie to New York, where she was working as a nurse at Brookdale Medical Centre. In 1962, He got married and began his career in public service with the United Nations Secretariat.
While an undergraduate student at Brooklyn College, Sir Branford Taitt wrote articles for Barbadian newspapers, urging Barbados to market itself as a tourist destination and to move towards industrial development. His writings caught the attention of the Barbadian Government, and he was eventually invited in 1965 to become the first manager of the Barbados Development Board in New York. In 1967, Sir Branford was invited to become Barbados’ first Consul-General at New York with responsibility for the entire United States of America.
He attracted American investment to Barbados so effectively and successfully (he was a walking advertisement for Barbados with his proud donning of the ‘shirt-jac‘ suit) that in 1971, His Excellency, the Right Excellent Errol Barrow invited him to return home to serve as a senator and Minister of Trade Industry and Commerce, a position he held until 1976, when he was then elected to serve as a Member of Parliament representing the then constituency of St. Michael South West. He was re-elected to the country’s Lower House four consecutive times. In 1996, he was recognized by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association of Barbados for “twenty five (25) consecutive years of distinguished parliamentary service.” Sir Branford Taitt held the record as the longest serving Parliamentarian – from 1971 to 1999.
Sir Branford served as president of the DLP for three terms and as General Secretary for several years. He was an asset to his political colleagues as well. He was campaign manager in the successful bye-elections of now Sir. Richard Haynes and Mrs. Sybil Leacock. He also managed every National Campaign for the DLP since 1971.
Sir Branford worked tirelessly in his representation of Barbados overseas, especially in the field of education. He collaborated with faculty members at Brooklyn College to establish a summer exchange programme between that College and the UWI for students of public administration. He was a guest lecturer at several colleges and universities in the United States, including Brooklyn College, Yale, Hampton University, Pace College and the University of Puerto Rico. In 2003 a scholarship in his name was established at Drexel University for students of international studies. He was a distinguished visiting professor at Drexel for many years. He also lectured at the Cave Hill campus of the University of the West Indies.
Sir Branford was the recipient of several degrees — a bachelor’s degree cum laude from Brooklyn College of the City University of New York, a Master of Public Administration degree from New York University, an upper second class honours degree in Law from the Cave Hill Campus of UWI. In 2007, he was the first Caribbean scholar to be conferred with an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters degree from Brooklyn College.
As a scholar, Sir Branford Taitt published more than 200 articles in journals, newspapers and periodicals. He received many awards, including the U.S. Government’s Distinguished Visitor Award (1983) and the Sir Gaston Johnston Memorial Prize of the University of the West Indies for Excellence in Criminal Law. He was named Distinguished Alumnus of the Year by Brooklyn College by Brooklyn College in 1974. His love for his country was so great that he encouraged not only his late wife, Marjorie, to read for her UWI degree in history, but all three of their children, who each received their first degrees there as well.
God was central in Sir Branford’s life. He is a faithful member of St. Leonard’s Anglican Church and he has served as a member of the Synod of the Anglican Diocese of Barbados for several years. For more than 30 years, he invited choirs to his Black Rock home every Good Friday night, to perform “The Crucifixion.”
In 2004, he formally retired from active politics, only to be called to service again in 2008 when he was asked to serve as a Senator; he was elected by his colleague senators to be President.
On 30 November 2010 he received Barbados’ top award, the Knight of StAndrew (KA), in the 2010 Independence Day Honours List.
I just heard the sad news that Sir Branford “Goldie” Taitt passed away. He takes to the grave with him a small piece of the heart and soul of the Democratic Labour Party, but more importantly he represented an important contribution to our national political life and culture of this country. Sir Branford was a former Minister of Trade and later Health and I am told one of the most outstanding Health Ministers we have ever had in this country. He walked with the late EW Barrow and later sat in his cabinet and thereafter served in the cabinet of Sir Lloyd Sandiford.
“Goldie” took a keen interest in the Young Democrats while he was Minister of Health and I well remember him summoning us (I was a Young Dem at the time) to the Pelican Restaurant to lunch in the wake of the 91 election thank us for our role in the DLP’s victory in 91 and to bid farewell to our VP Kerrie Symmonds who was heading off to Trinidad to complete his studies in Law.
Goldie will be remembered for his eloquence, but also for the extent to which he was grounded and took an interest in the man in the street.