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Walter Brangman

It says a lot about a politician when leaders from four political parties, past and present, give him fulsome praise. But that reflects the kind of man that Walter Brangman, who died this week at the age of 81, was.

One Bermuda Alliance leader John Barritt probably put it best when he said: “The most wonderful thing about him was the way he would express himself with a cheerfulness that was both compelling and winning. He was not a man with a harsh word.”

And Mr Barritt was also right to quote Rudyard Kipling in saying: “I don't know how many kings he walked with, but he was a man who never lost the common touch.”

Indeed,

Mr Brangman was comfortable in any setting. That reflected the fact that he had come up the hard way and bowed to no man. A qualified architect, he said he learned most in the school of hard knocks.

And hard knocks there were. Mr Brangman once described how he had a strong architectural practice until he got involved in Progressive Labour Party politics, at which point he could not get a commission for a garden shed. That changed, fortunately, and behaviour that would have embittered many simply made him more determined.

Politically, the greatest blow came when he was expelled with fellow MPs Gilbert Darrell, Austin Thomas and Lionel Simmons from the PLP, essentially for wanting the party to take a more moderate political line than the one being followed by then-leader Dame Lois Browne-Evans.

Mr Simmons reminisced on VSB TV this week about what might have been had the expulsions not taken place; Bermuda's history could have been very different. It is quite possible that it would have taken power earlier than 1998. Mr Brangman went on to form the National Liberal Party with his colleagues and lost his Warwick seat in the 1985 drubbing of the PLP and the NLP by the United Bermuda Party under Sir John Swan.

That defeat led to the succession of Frederick Wade as leader of the PLP who began dragging that party in the direction the PLP dissidents had wanted. Ironically, that squeezed the NLP and Mr Brangman out of parliamentary politics.

But Mr Brangman remained involved in the community, and among other things, went on to form the Construction Association of Bermuda. He also continued to work as an architect with his son and the buildings around Hamilton, including the Bermuda Industrial Union Headquarters and the Brown-Brangman Building on the junction of King and Reid Streets are lasting monuments to his life.

Most importantly, Mr Brangman was always a family man and his long and loving marriage to Lovette herself a quietly formidable force in Bermuda was testament to that. His three sons have distinguished themselves too and now there are grandchildren to carry on his legacy as well.

There can be no question that Mr Brangman always wanted what was best for Bermuda and was disturbed in recent years about rising crime, the breakdown of the family and the increasingly shrill political invective. His political talents were enhanced by his positive outlook; too many politicians today instinctively reach for the negative.

If any of today's politicians took Mr Brangman's approach to heart, that would be the best possible legacy for him.

Tributes: Walter Brangman made his mark as a pioneering architect in Bermuda. He was also a former PLP MP. He is pictured standing in front of the Brown-Brangman office building at the intersection of King Street and Reid Street, which he designed.

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Published August 26, 2011 at 11:00 am (Updated August 26, 2011 at 11:51 am)

Walter Brangman

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