Elder statesman Burrows dies
Former Progressive Labour Party MP and senator Reginald Burrows, who died yesterday, was an eclectic Progressive Labour Party veteran and elder statesman of Bermuda politics.
Mr Burrows, who was 83, battled Bermuda’s segregation in his personal, business and political life and won respect across the social spectrum.
A Southampton East MP from 1968 to 2003 and then a senator until 2005, he was regarded by fellow politicians as one of the voices of reason in Parliament.
Mr Burrows worked as a plumber and also received a Hall of Fame Award from Wilberforce University, where he graduated in 1958.
He lived in Southampton with his wife Sheila.
He said in an interview with The Royal Gazette in 2015: “My greatest career accomplishment was helping to make Bermuda a closer society.”
He recalled growing up in a “very insulated” Southampton community, near Heron Bay, and credited his strong work ethic to the example set by his great-grandfather Profirio Gomez.
Mr Gomez became the first Bermudian to be baptised as a Seventh-day Adventist, while Mr Burrows’s father, Reginald, helped to found Vernon Temple AME Church.
Vernon Temple recently held a special service in Mr Burrows’s honour.
Mr Burrows recalled overt racism as he grew up in a segregated Bermuda with “places we couldn’t sit on the train, and theatres and restaurants we couldn’t go in”.
He told the Gazette: “Things were pretty rough when I started in politics in 1968 — especially for the working class and black people.”
He graduated from respected black college Wilberforce University in Ohio with degrees in engineering and maths.
Wilberforce inducted him into its hall of fame in 2009.
But stonewalled back home by the island’s racial barriers, Mr Burrows dedicated himself to the family trade of plumbing — a business he pursued alongside his political career.
Mr Burrows was a major contributor to the founding of Southampton Rangers Sports Club from 1959 and became the club’s first president. Keen on sports, he rated himself a better cricketer than footballer, and looked back on the establishment of the club as the moment he felt “if we could do that, we could do anything”.
With the creation of the PLP in the 1960s, followed by the United Bermuda Party, Mr Burrows was courted by both parties, but became a PLP stalwart.
Thirty years later, he worked on the renovation of its headquarters under the direction of then party leader, Frederick Wade.
In his service as an MP and a senator, he was recalled by political colleagues as a mentor and a keen historian.
In tributes from the House of Assembly yesterday, MPs from both parties commended him as an adroit speaker who proceeded swiftly with business.
His private members Bill, brought to the House of Assembly in 1996 to allow the development of the derelict Bermudiana Hotel site for international business, was passed in 1997 in less than one minute, with no debate.
Mr Burrows served on the Defence Board and, after the PLP’s first electoral victory in 1998, was appointed to head the Immigration Board, as well as its advisory council.
When he retired from the Senate in 2005, Mr Burrows said that he never expected to be in politics for 37 years and voiced regret at never having served in Cabinet.
Mr Burrows is survived by his wife and four children, Tracey Moore, Trina Burch Bean, Christopher Burrows and Zakiah Bey and five grandchildren.
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