Arthur Hodgson (1940-2023): ‘his contributions to the PLP and Bermuda were historic’
A former environment minister for the Progressive Labour Party was a stalwart – and occasionally outspoken when he disagreed with colleagues.
Arthur Hodgson was also the island’s first Black Rhodes Scholar, as well as a lawyer and former magistrate.
David Burt, the Premier and finance minister, this afternoon called Mr Hodgson “one of the leaders of a generation of social justice champions”.
He added: “Mr Hodgson was an outstanding scholar and served at the vanguard of the earliest days of party politics in Bermuda.
“He brought an unparalleled commitment to public service as an educator, parliamentarian, Minister of the Environment, lawyer and Magistrate.
“With his granddaughter [Arianna Hodgson] serving in the Senate, Arthur Hodgson’s legacy is a source of pride and inspiration.
“On behalf of the Government and people of Bermuda, I express my sincerest condolences to his family on his passing.”
Mr Hodgson worked within the PLP through the 1960s, becoming a branch chairman for the party in Hamilton Parish.
He was elected to the House of Assembly in 1980, representing Hamilton West until 1983, during which time he served as shadow transport minister.
Mr Hodgson entered the House in the same year as Lionel Simmons of the PLP, who assisted him with the shadow portfolio and recalled him keenly investigating transport issues.
He went to law school after losing his seat, earning his degree in law from the University of Buckingham. He then attended the Middle Temple in London, where he was Called to the Bar of England and Wales.
He returned as an MP in the landmark General Election of 1998 that launched the PLP to power.
Returning to politics required him to step down from the courts to campaign, after three years as a magistrate.
Running in Hamilton West under the dual candidate system, Mr Hodgson and Randolph Horton of the PLP ousted United Bermuda Party incumbents Wayne Furbert and Maxwell Burgess, who were then Health and Family Services Minister and Home Affairs and Public Safety Minister respectively.
Mr Hodgson was appointed environment minister by Dame Jennifer Smith, the former premier – a position he relinquished just days after unsuccessfully challenging Dame Jennifer for leadership in 2000.
Mr Hodgson later backed Ewart Brown in his leadership bid.
Dr Brown, who served as Premier from 2006 to 2010, said: “Arthur was my friend and political colleague for more than 30 years. His contributions to the PLP and Bermuda were historic and memorable.
“Arthur was a man of devout faith and a unique combination of brilliance and stubbornness. I miss him already – and Bermuda will miss him more as time goes by.”
Cole Simons offered “our sincerest condolences to the family of the late Arthur D.O. Hodgson” on behalf of the One Bermuda Alliance.
“I first met Mr Hodgson and his wife Liris while attending Sandys Secondary School as a student,” Mr Simons said.
“At that time, he was a teacher with other luminary black male educators such as Jim Brock, Solomon Kawaley, Kenneth Richardson, Donald Dane and James Parris.”
Mr Simons said his Oxford University and Rhodes Scholar background made Mr Hodgson “a very good teacher with a great sense of humour”.
He added: “His students enjoyed attending his classes which he led with a firm hand and as a consequence, was able to illicit the best from them.
“As a former member of the Bermuda Parliament, former Cabinet Minister, and commercial lawyer he willingly shared his depth of knowledge and practical experience.
“Arthur was a very spiritual man and through the years he was willing to spread the gospel and uplift those that he touched, through his church in Crawl, and members of Bermuda’s Parliament through the Parliamentary Prayer Breakfast Group.”
He said Mr Hodgson’s service as environment minister reflected “a genuine passion for the environment, whether terrestrial or the marine”.
“He was concerned about Bermuda’s sustainable development, and fervently believed that sustainable development should form the cornerstone of Bermuda’s economic and planning legislation.
“As a seasoned politician and man of God, Arthur Hodgson, JP will be sadly missed in Bermuda.”
A party tribute said: “As a lawyer, politician, educator, real estate broker, business developer and researcher, Arthur Hodgson had a wealth of knowledge and experience.”
The PLP added: “Mr Hodgson was a constant fixture in the life and journey of the party from virtually its inception and joined in the very beginning.”
Roles included deputy party chairman and party chairman.
Mr Hodgson ran as a candidate in 1968 and 1972 as well as 1980, 1983 and in 1998. More recently, he was chairman of Constituency 5, Hamilton East.
“Mr Hodgson began practising law in Bermuda with the firm Richards, Francis and Francis, where he later rose to the position of partner.
“He worked as a magistrate in the family court on the Bermuda Bench. Following the merger of Richmond Law Offices and Lynda Milligan-Whyte & Associates, he founded the boutique firm Richmond Law Offices to provide legal consulting services.
“Prior to that, he worked for Apex Law Group Ltd Barristers & Attorneys.
“As the first chair of the Sustainable Development Round Table, his committee advised the Government and assisted in making recommendations to the Premier and Cabinet on ways to promote sustainable development in Bermuda.
“He was also the former chairman of Bermuda's Mission Trust and chairman of the Hamilton Parish Council.”
The PLP acknowledged his “significant contributions to improving the quality of life for the people and Bermuda”, offering “heartfelt sympathies” to family and friends.
Mr Hodgson was also closely involved in Crawl Gospel Hall in Hamilton Parish.
Known for frankness, Mr Hodgson told The Royal Gazette in 2008 as he prepared to step down: “I realised once in power I had developed my philosophy from a different era than my colleagues.”
He added: “The earlier era was much more community-orientated and much less individual-orientated.”
Mr Hodgson prided himself on sticking to what he felt were the former values of the earlier PLP.
He was also synonymous with education: he received a Bachelor's degree in economics, language and mathematics at Michigan State University, followed by philosophy, politics and economics at Oxford University.
He married his wife Liris in 1969, and the couple had three children. Mr Hodgson was also brother to the late educator and activist Eva Hodgson, who died in 2020.
• Arthur David Outerbridge Hodgson, a former magistrate and Progressive Labour Party minister, was born on February 25, 1940. He died on February 6, 2023, aged 82.
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