A Tribute to the Late Arnold Francis, QC

January 28, 2011

[Written by Otti Simmons, former MP and President of the BIU]

I have always thought of Mr. Arnold Francis as one of Bermuda’s most outstanding men. He was born a Pond Dog. He attended Central School, and was one of Berkley’s brightest students. As a young man he was the physical education teacher at Central School. I was a student at Central, during that time. It was then that I recognized the political and the social awareness of Mr. Francis.

It was in 1947, that many of the upstairs students were summonsed to the general assembly hall. Mr. Francis was the lone teacher on the stage and as he commanded silence from the students, he proceeded to announce:

“All you boys and girls, today are experiencing a very historical occasion. You must not forget this day. This is the day that the first Negro professional baseball player will play with the Brooklyn Dodgers his name, Jackie Robinson. And do take this major achievement on Mr. Robinson’s part as very serious indeed, because he is now opening a new era in the civil rights movement of integration of baseball and hopefully in other sports and other social and economic opportunities for people like you.”

I also remember in 1972, The PLP nominated Mr. Gilbert Darrell and me to the Legislative Council (senate today). We met on Wednesdays and on this particular day, speaking on the motion for adjournment. Mr. Francis at that time was representing the UBP; and in his proper English vernacular he addressed President The Hon. George Rattery and proceeded to say:

“Mr. President I would like for this session of the Council to send congratulations to President Jo Mo Kenyatta and the people of Kenya, in recognition of Kenya’s 10 year celebration as an independent state.”

Gilbert and I fully supported that commendation. However the Hon. Gentleman James Pearman, strenuously objected to the motion when he said:

“Mr. President, I refuse to congratulate the likes of Mr. Kenyetta until he releases the large number of political prisoners from his jails and introduces democracy in his country..”

Arnold hit back with:

“Well Mr. President it is persons like the Hon. Gentleman who just spoke who will not face up to the fact that he stated recently that he had visited parts of Africa like Tanzania and then South Africa and Mr. Pearman said upon entering South Africa it was like a breath of fresh air to see such a good and well organized country.”

Arnold retorted with outrage and in the best Kings English continued with fire coming out of his mouth :

“The Hon. Gentleman Mr. Pearman had better look at white Europe, Just look at Franco of Spain and Salazar of Portugal these are the dictators of the west and it was the Englishman who locked up Kenyatta for his Political dedication to his African People and his country. (Kenyatta was a political prisoner and not a criminal).”

Earlier in 1964 Arnold Francis played a major role in having Dr. Barbara Ball reinstated into her medical practice at King Edward Hospital.

That is the way I remember Mr. Arnold Francis, he was truly a courageous man, a bold man, and a man of principle. Anyone who knew Mr. Francis on a social level, enjoyed his quick wit and humor.

I have also seen him on his feet in the Supreme Court representing Kenneth Paul (another political prisoner) on charges arising out of the 1965 unlawful assembly (BIU/BELCO riot) and on that occasion Attorney Francis was in full command of the law.

I always hoped that Mr. Arnold Francis would have been the first black Attorney General and or the first Bermudian Governor of Bermuda. After all he met all of the qualifications.

He was the first and founding leader of the Bermuda Progressive Labour Party and I witnessed his devotion and dedication to our Bermudian politics and he has constantly fought for the integration of the people of Bermuda. HIS MAIN AMBITION WAS TO ESTABLISH A JUST SOCIETY FOR ALL PEOPLE.

Arnold Francis an Attorney, Politician, Sportsman and freedom fighter.

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Comments (2)

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  1. S Brown says:

    Sounds like my kind of guy.

    RIP Mr. Francis, its unfortunate that a young Bermudian like myself only found out about your accomplishments when you passed.

  2. Otti,

    What has to all the Outstanding Men Like Mr.Francis? What has happen to the B.I.U
    and the PLP. We need help as working Bermudian.The Greed and Corruption has all
    but Killed the working class Bermudian’s.

    Men Like Mr.Francis and yourself Truely Missed