Dudley Thompson, Jamaican politician and diplomat, died he was 95
Dudley Joseph Thompson, OJ, QC, was a Jamaican Pan-Africanist, politician and diplomat, who made a contribution to jurisprudence and politics in the Caribbean, Africa and elsewhere internationally died he was 95.
(19 January 1917 – 20 January 2012)
Born in Panama, to Daniel and Ruby Thompson, he was raised in Westmoreland, Jamaica, where he was a student at The Mico (now Mico University College) in the 1930s. After a short period as headmaster of a rural school, he joined the Royal Air Force during the Second World War – one of Britain‘s first black pilots – and saw active service (1941-5) as a flight lieutenant in RAF Bomber Command over Europe, being awarded several decorations.
In 1946, he went to England to attend Merton College, Oxford University, where he studied jurisprudence, as a Rhodes Scholar, obtaining degrees as a Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Civil Law. From his university days he was a close associate of pan-Africanists such as Kwame Nkrumah, George Padmore and C.L.R. James. After qualifying as a barrister at Gray’s Inn in the early 1950s, and doing tutelage with Dingle Foot, QC, Thompson went on to practise law in Africa – in Tanganyika and Kenya, where he became involved in the nationalist movements. He assembled the international legal team that defended Jomo Kenyatta
in his trial after he had been seized by the British colonialists in
1952 and subsequently charged with treason, accused of being an
instigator of the Mau Mau rebellion.
Later as President of Kenya, Kenyatta memorably placed his hand on
Thompson sitting beside him and said: “This man saved my life.” In Tanzania, where he was a friend of Julius Nyerere, Thompson is remembered as a founder of the Tanganyika African National Union (TANU).
In the mid-1950s he returned to Jamaica, and continued to educate
people about furthering the links between Africa and the Caribbean,
visiting schools to deliver inspirational addresses about the continent
(Jamaica-born writer Lindsay Barrett was inspired to decide to live in Africa by one such visit that Thompson paid to his school, Clarendon College, in 1957). He practised law in Trinidad, Barbados, St. Kitts, Dominica, Bermuda, Grenada, The Bahamas, Belize and elsewhere in the West Indies, playing a role in the independence movements of both Belize and the Bahamas. He was appointed a Queen’s Counsel in 1963.
He served as a member of the Jamaican Senate from 1962 to 1978, and a member of the House of Representatives from 1978 to 1983. In the People’s National Party (PNP) administration under Prime Minister Michael Manley, he was Minister of State for Foreign Affairs (1972-7), Minister of Mining and Natural Resources (1977-8), and Minister of National Security and Justice (1978–80). He was also a vice-president and later chairman of the PNP.
Dudley Thompson represented Jamaica in many international forums, including the United Nations and the Organization of African Unity (OAU). In 1992 he was empanelled as a member of the Eminent Persons Group charged with implementing the movement for reparations for slavery to Africa and the African diaspora, under the auspices of the OAU.
Thompson was appointed Ambassador and High Commissioner to several African countries, including Nigeria, Ghana, Namibia and Sierra Leone, based in Nigeria until 1995.
He died at the age of 96 in New York City.
Thompson was a recipient of the Order of Jamaica,
one of Jamaica’s most prestigious decorations, for distinguished
service in the field of International Affairs and his contribution to
the legal developments in Jamaica.
He was awarded the Mico Old Students’ Gold Medal – the most prestigious teacher’s award.
The African Union declared him a ‘first citizen’ of the continent
because of his work for Africa internationally. The OAU had earlier
awarded him a medal in recognition of his status as a “Legend of
In 2006 in Ghana he was honoured as a “Living Legend of Africa”
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