Dr James ‘One Of Great Bermudians Of His Time’

April 22, 2016

Dr. Clarence James “stands as one of the great Bermudians of his time, a man who devoted his life to helping others live in health and harmony,” Premier Michael Dunkley said at yesterday’s funeral for the late Dr. Clarence James.

The Premier said, “It is a privilege to be here today to speak in tribute of Dr. Clarence James CBE. “He stands as one of the great Bermudians of his time – a man who devoted his life to helping others live in health and harmony.

“He did so as a medical practitioner, as a government minister and in the beginning as a novice politician who gave voice to a vision that lives on today.

“He was a man whose work touched individual life and community life, and his impact was profound.

“Just this week a former patient recalled Dr. James performing five surgeries on her in 1964 after she suffered 2nd and 3rd degree burns to 45% of her body. “I am alive today because of him,” she said.

“As Minister of Transportation in 1974, Dr. James pushed through legislation making it mandatory for helmets to be worn while riding motorbikes.

“In the five years before the legislation, Bermuda was averaging more than 17 deaths a year, mostly due to severe head injuries.

“In the five years that followed, that average fell by half. Lives saved and lives lived. Is there a more meaningful achievement? In the political ring, Dr. James’ impact was equally far reaching.

“There are not many politicians in the long history of this Island who are remembered for a speech they gave. But Clarence James is one.

“In late 1967, with Bermuda heading toward its first election under party banners, he posed a question about his candidacy that cut to the heart of the issue for many black Bermudians.

“Am I being used?” he asked. The answer, which was a resounding ‘No’, was based on his diagnosis of the parties’ behaviour, particularly their sincerity in addressing the big issues of the day – the new Constitution, education reform and integration.

“The choice was clear: Bermudians could follow the politics of hate and division to disaster or they could give cooperation and hope a chance to build something special – a society free of discrimination, based on equality, fair play and shared prosperity.

“Dr. James maintained that none of this could be achieved without black and white Bermudians working together, and it was this hope and expectation that drove his political choices throughout his life.

“Some might have seen him as an idealist. His politics, after all, was based on faith in people doing the right thing. But he also knew his audience well enough, keeping a close watch on developments and applying pressure whenever he felt the forward effort was flagging.

“There is a saying that character is the foundation of all worthwhile success.

“That is certainly true of Dr. James. He was a man of exemplary character: courageous, disciplined, decisive, compassionate, pragmatic and proud – traits that enabled him to succeed as a student, surgeon, politician and government minister.

“He was also a man bound by a deep sense of duty and responsibility to the community. It is remarkable how many boards, commissions and committees he served on. As a community man, he was all in. Bermuda could use more people like him; people who use their God-given talents and skills to benefit others, who see the bigger picture and understand the need to contribute and give meaning to community.

“In the end, Dr. James set a fine example of a life well lived.

“Few others accomplished as much, and few did it with such a positive and gentlemanly spirit. His politics were driven by principles of equality and fairness and the goal of racial harmony, and his voice was that of reason and moral leadership, helping guide and progress Bermudian life. The Hon. Dr. Clarence James made a difference in our lives.

“He helped build a future. And his vision of Bermuda built on a partnership and shared prosperity between the races remains the goal.

“To my dear friend Shirley and family – siblings, children and especially the grandchildren – you are all connected to a great man, and that connection can be a unique source of strength, pride and identity as you move through life.

“Think of it as his special legacy just to you. And cherish it because it is the rarest of gifts,” concluded the Premier.

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