Walter Byron (1937-2019)
A key member and former treasurer and chairman of the Progressive Labour Party has died at 82.
Walter Byron was fondly remembered yesterday by Alex Scott, who served as premier for the PLP from 2003 to 2006, as “an unsung hero, the type of individual that the PLP was built upon”.
Mr Scott added: “He worked in a way that folks on the outside don’t fully appreciate. You see parliamentarians, senators and leaders, but not the ones that make the organisation run, and Walter was one.”
The Warwick taxi driver was recalled as a driving force in Mr Scott’s former constituency of Warwick South East.
Mr Scott said: “I attribute my success in that area to Walter and his wife, Roma.”
He added: “Walter was a political animal. You can always tell a fire horse; as soon as they hear the bell, they’re up and running.
“Walter never saw a debate he would refuse.
“There was not an issue he didn’t have an opinion about, and if you cut him, he would bleed green [referring to the PLP’s colours of green and white]. He was charismatic and colourful.”
He said Mr Byron had accompanied him to the Bahamas on a fact-finding mission with other PLP leaders, as the party prepared to assume the Bermuda Government in 1998.
Mr Scott added: “When we returned, Walter made sure that everything we had learnt and wanted to share with our members got out there. That’s the type of role he played.
“I hope that the next generation of the PLP are aware of his contribution, and that we have lost a key man, certainly for Warwick, certainly for the party, and I would not be overstating to say for Bermuda.”
He thanked Mr Byron’s family “for sharing him with us in those crucial years”.
The father of three died on New Year’s Eve.
According to a party statement, Mr Byron ran unsuccessfully for Parliament in Warwick East in 1976, and was a stalwart of his branch at Warwick South Central. The popular taxi driver “championed his country to tourists and locals alike”.
LaVerne Furbert, a former PLP senator and staunch supporter of the party, said she had been “shocked and saddened” by the news, and called Mr Byron “my dear friend and comrade-in-arms”.
Ms Furbert added: “Both of us served in various capacities in the party, always remembering that the party came before our personal ambitions.”
She recalled Mr Byron had been moved to tears over the “massive” split after the PLP expelled several dissident members, including four of its MPs, over an internal dispute in 1984.
After Walter Brangman, Gilbert Darrell, Lionel Simmons and Austin Thomas were kicked out, the party suffered badly in the 1985 General Election, which Ms Furbert said “could have been avoided had sound minds agreed to dialogue”.
She added: “But that did not happen and it took several years for the party to regroup and recoup its losses. Having said that, I extend my condolences to Mr Byron’s wife, Roma, and his children, Dean, Denise and Dawn.
“I certainly will miss the camaraderie that we shared during the years of our friendship. May he rest in peace.”
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