Truly loved’ former Deputy Premier dies
Tributes have been paid to the “trailblazing” former Deputy Premier and retired general surgeon Clarence James, who has died aged 84.
Dr James represented Pembroke West Central for 21 years, during which time he held several ministerial roles for the United Bermuda Party.
As well as becoming Minister of Transport, introducing motorcycle helmet laws to the island in 1976, he was Bermuda’s first ever black Minister of Finance and also served as Minister of Health. Born in August 1931, Dr James went on to marry wife Shirley and have three children: Joanne, Robert and Charles.
He served as Deputy Premier under Sir John Swan from 1983 to 1989, at the end of which he was appointed a CBE (Commander of the British Empire) by Queen Elizabeth II.
A keen musician and capable businessman, he died at midday on Saturday at Agape House after being unwell for several months.
Dr James’s daughter Joanne Thain said that her father had “gone home to be with the Lord”.
She added: “He was a wonderful and loving father, and a life guide who always encouraged us to be the best we could be.”
Mrs Thain said that despite her father’s busy political and medical careers, he always made time for his family.
She added: “I have fond memories of taking long Sunday drives and coming to town and sharing time with him.
“We would often go off to ride around the bay or water ski in our little family boat. Those were the best of times.
“He will be missed by all of our family, but he will always be a brilliant and guiding light to all of us. He was truly loved and we will cherish his memories for ever.”
Former Premier Sir John Swan last night described Dr James as a long-time friend who had made an immeasurable impact on Bermuda.
“He always meant more to me than a politician or a surgeon,” he said. “He may have left us, but he left Bermuda a better place as a result of being here.
“We have lost a friend.” Sir John said that Dr James was always dedicated to using his skills to change the island for the better.
“When he came home from school, his interest was not just to do surgery but to make Bermuda a better place,” he said. “He involved himself in the political process while at the same time working on his surgery, dedicated to both.
“Even outside of surgery he was responsible for saving many lives. He was very much responsible for the helmet laws that were put in place, and that not only saved many lives but prevented a lot of people that could have been badly injured.
“He was always someone you could call on to help figure things out.”
A Progressive Labour Party spokesman extended condolences to Dr James’s family. He added: “We commend him for his life of service and his trailblazing role as Bermuda’s first black Finance Minister.”
Michael Dunkley, the Premier, also offered his sympathies - calling Dr James “one of the builders of modern Bermuda”.
He added: “Dr James was one of the most successful Bermudians of his generation, earning distinction as a surgeon at the Montreal General Hospital before returning home in the early 1960s to practise and later assume responsibilities at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital.”
Mr Dunkley said that Dr James was a “deeply patriotic man”, whose love for Bermuda drew him to public life.
He added: “His politics was driven by principles of equality and fairness, and the goal of racial harmony. He rejected the politics of hate and division, and worked to build partnership and shared prosperity between the races.
“Dr James was a proud, pragmatic man, intellectual, compassionate and friendly, whose voice of reason and moral leadership across decades helped guide and progress Bermudian life.
“In the final analysis, his life was defined by service to others. He was a great Bermudian. May he rest in peace.”