|Sir Branford Mayhew Taitt. (FP)|
It is with great sadness that the Government Information Service notes the passing of an outstanding and distinguished Barbadian son of the soil, Sir Branford Taitt; former Cabinet Minister, Diplomat and President of the Upper House, the Senate.
Sir Branford devoted most of his adult life to public service. His contribution to Barbados includes a major role in the transformation of the island’s economy, the improvement of heath care and the promotion of educational exchanges between institutions of higher learning in Barbados, the region and the United States.
Born in an area on the outskirts of The City, Fairfield, Black Rock, St. Michael, he was the youngest of five children to St. Clair Rollock and Elma Taitt-Rollock. He received his early education at Wesley Hall Boys’ School, and went on to Combermere for his secondary education. During his early years, he was also a soprano soloist in choir of St. Michael’s Cathedral where he developed a life-long love of music.
After beginning his working career at Cable and Wireless in Barbados and Antigua, he left the Caribbean for the United States, where pursed studies at Brooklyn College. A series of articles written by Sir Branford, while he was an undergraduate student there, caught the attention of the Barbados Government and led to his being invited, in 1965, to become the first manager of the Barbados Development Board in New York. In 1967, he scored another first when he became Barbados’ first Consul-General at New York with responsibility for the entire United States of America.
So successful and effective was Sir Branford in attracting American investment to Barbados, 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, serving 25 consecutive years. He holds the record as the longest serving parliamentarian in Barbados-from 1971 to 1999.
As a Cabinet Minister in the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) led governments, Sir Branford held several key portfolios, including those of Tourism and Industry from 1986 to-87, Health from 1987 to 1993 and Foreign Affairs from 1993 to 1994.
As the longest serving Health Minister in the country’s history, he represented Barbados at the World Health Assembly for six years. He was elected President of the 23rd Pan American Sanitary Conference in 1990, and was, for many years, chairman of PAHO’s Sub-Committee on Planning and Programming. He also served as Chairman of the Caribbean Conference of Health Ministers. In 1995, Sir Branford was appointed a member and chairman of the World Health Organization’s Multidisciplinary Task Force on Health and Development. As Minister of Health, he was responsible for the introduction of cardiac care at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
Sir Branford served as president of the Democratic Labour Party for three terms and as General Secretary for several years. He has been an asset to his political colleagues as well. He served as campaign manager in the successful by-elections of now Sir Richard Haynes and Mrs.Sybil Leacock. He managed every National Campaign for the DLP between 1971 and 2008.
Sir Branford had 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, a position from which he resigned in 2012, as a result of ill health.
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 University of the West Indies (UW)I for students of public administration. He served as 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, Drexel University, where he was a guest lecturer for many years, established a scholarship in his name for students of international studies. He also lectured at the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies.
Along with his substantial political career, Sir Branford maintained his academic interests and became the first Caribbean scholar to be conferred with an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters degree from Brooklyn College. As a scholar, he published more than 200 articles in journals, newspapers and periodicals He has 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 in 1974.
His longstanding service to Barbados’ political, economic and social development was recognised in November 2010, when he was named Knight of St. Andrew in the Independence Honours of that year.
Throughout his life, Sir Branford remained a faithful member of St. Leonard’s Anglican Church. He served as a member of the Synod of the Anglican Diocese of Barbados for several years. For more than 30 years, and up to this year, he invited choirs to his Black Rock home, every Good Friday night, to perform "The Crucifixion."
Sir Branford leaves to mourn, his widow, Colleen Lady Taitt, his three children — Sharonne, Monique and Branford Jr., grandson Marley, three step children — Dawn-Marie, Gina and Sean and seven step-grandchildren.
The Barbados Government Information Service extends sincere condolences to his grieving family and friends. May he rest in peace.