Sir Edward “ET” Richards
Sir Edward Trenton Richards [1908–1991] was the first Premier of Bermuda. Better known as “ET”, he was a barrier breaking figure in Bermuda’s history as the:
- First black person to lead the United Bermuda Party [UBP]
- First Bermudian Premier
- First black Bermudian to serve as a Magistrate
- First black Bermudian to be knighted by the Queen
Born in Oct 04, 1908 in Guyana, he was youngest of three siblings. His mother died while he was an infant, and he was raised by his father and grandmother.
He came to Bermuda in 1930 when he was 21 years old to teach maths at the Berkeley Institute, and seven years later became a Bermudian citizen.
In 1933 he started a second job; working as a journalist at the Bermuda Recorder. The Recorder was a newspaper for “coloured” people, as these were the days of legal segregation and discrimination. A vocal critic of segregation, he wrote often of racial injustices, once drawing the ire of the Department of Education for editorializing about two white women who had made racist remarks.
In 1940 he married Madree Williams, with whom he had three children. Decades later his son Bob Richards followed in his footsteps becoming an elected Member of Parliament [Devonshire East] for the UBP. In 2011, Bob Richards switched parties to represent the One Bermuda Alliance.
In 1943 he went onto Britain to study law, returning a few years later as a qualified lawyer. He was called to the Bermuda Bar on January 31, 1947 becoming the fourth black lawyer to practice in Bermuda.
In 1948, the first election following the Women’s Suffrage Bill, ET Richards was elected to Parliament representing Warwick Parish. He held this position for the two decades to follow.
In 1968, he was appointed Deputy Government Leader and Deputy Leader of the UBP. Three years later in 1971, he made history as the first black ‘Government Leader’, a post which later became know as the term we use today – Premier.
Click here to listen to an audio tribute to Sir Richards from the UBP.
Often confronted by anti West Indian sentiment, he once caused great laughter during a House sitting by saying:
I am a Bermudian by choice, you are a Bermudian by accident.
He retired from politics on December 29, 1975, going on to open a law firm [Richards, Francis and Francis] in 1980 along with Arnold and William Francis. He retired from practicing law in 1986, at the age of 78.
In her 2009 visit to Bermuda, Queen Elizabeth recalled Sir. E.T. Richards saying to her in 1975:
A land fetching and beautiful, which we must keep fetching and beautiful; a people renowned for their friendliness and courtesy whom we must keep friendly and courteous.
Depending on what side of the coin one is on, some say that Sir Richards was a token for the white establishment, while others say that he is a man who in the telling of history, rarely gets his due.
Whichever way his story is told, as the first Bermudian Premier, first black person to lead the country, first black Magistrate, and first black Bermudian to be knighted by the Queen, his place and impact in Bermuda’s history is firmly etched in stone.
For further reading, we recommend the book Peaceful Warrior: Sir Edward Trenton Richards by J William Randolph.