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Former GG, Sir Clifford dies at 89

Guardian Staff Reporter

Published: Dec 28, 2011

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Sir Clifford Darling, the fourth Bahamian born governor general who was instrumental in the struggle for Majority Rule, died yesterday morning after a long illness. He was 89.

He passed away at the Princess Margaret Hospital.

Sir Clifford had a decorated life in politics which culminated when he was appointed governor general in 1992.

Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham said Sir Clifford’s many accomplishments will always be etched in the history books of this country.

“His proud legacy will not be forgotten,” Ingraham said in a statement.

“Sir Clifford’s passing brings to a close another remarkable career of an early nation builder and pioneer for equality.”

Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) leader Perry Christie described Sir Clifford as “one of the major builders of the modern Bahamas and a true national hero”.

Sir Clifford served as a PLP MP from 1967 to 1991.

In 1971, he was appointed Minister of Labour and National Insurance and was responsible for the introduction of the National Insurance program on October 7, 1974.

Many years later, the Christie administration named the main NIB building in his honor.  Sir Clifford also served as a senator and as speaker of the House of Assembly.

“However, as impressive as those achievements were, it was Sir Clifford's courageous leadership during the 1958 General Strike that constituted his greatest single accomplishment,” Christie said in a statement.

At the time, Sir Clifford, who was the leader of the Bahamas Taxi Cab Union, instigated and led what is regarded as the largest and most successful struggle in the history of the labor movement in The Bahamas.

In November 1957, Sir Clifford and a group of cab drivers blockaded and closed the airport in a bid to protest an exclusive deal that the major hotels had with a taxi company which resulted in a monopoly that excluded the taxi union.  The General Strike followed in January.

“Of even greater significance than that, however, it was the General Strike that sparked the final phase of the political struggle that would lead to the attainment of Majority Rule in 1967.  Clifford Darling was a major figure in that political struggle as well under the banner of the Progressive Liberal Party,” said Christie.

Ingraham added the success Sir Clifford helped to win for taxi drivers “set the stage for dramatic political change in our country; a change that began in 1967”.

During an interview in 2007, Sir Clifford reflected on that era.

"It was a long struggle," he said.

Sir Clifford said the union played a crucial role in bringing about Majority Rule in the country.

On January 10, 1967, Sir Clifford and 17 other PLPs won seats in the House of Assembly, and the UBP won 18.

Sir Clifford said that when the PLP persuaded Labour candidate Randol Fawkes and Alvin Braynen to throw their support behind the party, "It was a glorious moment for Bahamians".

“It was a good feeling.  For over 300 years the minority were ruling the majority, and I knew that that was wrong, so when it came to pass that the PLP won and we had majority rule, I was very happy and I give God thanks for that,” he said.

Ingraham said yesterday that Bahamians owe a debt of gratitude to Sir Clifford for his half a century of public service marked by honesty, industry, loyalty and integrity.

“Even as we mourn his passage, we celebrate his life of service and dedication to The Bahamas,” Ingraham said.

Governor General Sir Arthur Foulkes said he was sad to learn of the death of his friend.

“Sir Clifford was among those extraordinary Bahamian leaders who commanded the Bahamian stage during the history-making years of the 50s and 60s, and he played his considerable role with dedication and with his characteristic dignity,” Sir Arthur said in a statement.

“Even as we mourn his loss we also thank God for a life that was well-lived and wonderfully fruitful,” Sir Arthur added.

Christie noted that Sir Clifford will be remembered by all who knew him as a man of exceptional modesty and uncommon humility.

“Indeed, it is largely because of that, that his achievements, especially in relation to the 1958 General Strike, are not as well-known as they should be.  He was a wonderful example of civility, even towards his political foes.”

Sir Clifford was the former member of Parliament for Englerston, where he served for 24 years.

Current Englerston MP Glenys Hanna-Martin said the people of Englerston join in the national mourning of his death.

“He emerged from the humblest of beginnings in the then remote Island of Acklins and was raised up to champion the righteous cause of an oppressed people,” Hanna-Martin said of Sir Clifford.

“He submitted his life to the service of his beloved Bahamas.  His courageous struggle for the self determination of his people helped to lay the foundation of our nation.  He is beloved by the people of Englerston who claim him as their very own and who to this day speak of him with tremendous love and respect.”

Hanna-Martin said she counts it an honor to have followed in the wake of his legacy in the Englerston community.

Sir Clifford was born on February 6, 1922 in Acklins.

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