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Pioneering architect and politician Walter Brangman dies at 81

Political party founder and pioneering architect Walter Brangman has died aged 81.

Mr Brangman, a former Progressive Labour Party MP who became a founding member of the National Liberal Party in 1985, was also one of Bermuda’s best-known architects for more than four decades.

He passed away in the early hours of yesterday morning after being taken to hospital on Tuesday.

Tributes from the world of politics and architecture came in yesterday, with Acting Premier Derrick Burgess saying: “As one of Bermuda’s first black architects, his contributions to Bermudian society will always be remembered.”

Mr Brangman was an architect for 45 years, designing residential and office buildings including most recently the Brown-Brangman office building at the intersection of King Street and Reid Street, at the end of his career.

But it is his achievements in his early years for which he will be remembered by many. Along with Stanley Kennedy he became one of the first black registered Bermudian architects in the late 1950s, having obtained a degree from Ryerson Institute of Technology in Toronto.

Colin Campbell, head of the Bermuda division of OBM International architects said yesterday: “Walter Brangman came up the hard way. His father was a master carpenter and instead of playing football and skylarking around, he learned his trade with his father.

“He was interesting, well read, a very clever person, but a humble fellow.

“He was one of the first black Bermudian architects to be registered. That was a huge deal. It showed the community how people could get qualified as architects and their skin colour didn’t matter at all.”

A family man who was married to Lovette for 53 years and had three sons, Nalton, Remonde and Que’monde, Mr Brangman was praised for his sense of fun in spite of his busy professional life and political career.

Mr Campbell said: “He was knowledgeable on all things and wise; he wasn’t quick to judge and he was fun. He was not so wrapped up in himself that he couldn’t have a good hearty laugh, which is a rare commodity these days.”

Mr Brangman was a PLP Warwick MP for many years but, following an internal row that split the party in 1985, he was expelled along with three other MPs, Gilbert Darrell, Austin Thomas and Lionel Simmons.

They formed the National Liberal Party, but Mr Brangman and Mr Simmons both lost their seats fighting for the new party at the next election.

Despite the fallout, in recent years he has been frequently named as one of the figures of the past who helped pave the way for the current success of the PLP.

Mr Burgess said in a statement yesterday: “My former colleague was very easy going and approachable and he always had a listening ear and a calm way about himself.

“He served in the House during times that the Island was facing difficult economic, social and educational challenges.

“The Government of Bermuda conveys our deepest sympathies to his beloved wife, Lovette, with whom he shared 53 years of marriage; and his three sons: Nalton, Remonde and Que’monde on the loss of their beloved husband and father.

“I trust that they will find comfort in knowing that he will truly be missed.”

Former NLP chairman Charles Jeffers said: “As one of the founding members of the National Liberal Party and a former chairman, I must express my condolences to Mrs Brangman and the rest of the family of the late Walter Brangman on behalf of my wife and family.

“I describe Mr Brangman as a true VIP: a man of vision, inspiration, passion. Mr Brangman’s contribution to the family life, church, business and political life of Bermuda was at a standard that we should all emulate. We pray for God’s blessings and peace for his family.”

One Bermuda Alliance leader John Barritt recalled encountering Mr Brangman during his days as a journalist.

“He was a personable, likeable and capable man who made his mark,” said Mr Barritt.

“He was a church man, politician, architect and community activist, a son of the soil who was passionate about his Country.

“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.”

Offering condolences to Mr Brangman’s family, Mr Barritt referenced Rudyard Kipling: “I don’t know how many kings he walked with, but he was a man who never lost the common touch.”

United Bermuda Party leader Kim Swan said in statement: “It is with sadness and a profound sense of respect that I offer a tribute to a great Bermudian.

“There is a great story associated with the life of Walter Brangman and I consider myself privileged to be able to share a portion.

“Personally, I have long been proud to claim my cousin Walter Brangman, as he being a politician during my school days, he was one of my role models from an early age.”

Mr Swan noted Mr Brangman was the grandson of Harriet (Babes) Ratteray and Jacob Swan from Sandys. Along with Sir George Ratteray and Stanley Ratteray, he formed a trio of offspring of Charles Roach Ratteray from Sandys who sat in the legislature in the 1970s when Bermuda was undergoing tremendous social change.

The St George’s West MP continued: “Notwithstanding my political choice, he always encouraged me and I always knew that the advice that he offered was genuine and worth heeding, such was the measure of a fair-minded man.

“While many will quickly focus on Walter Brangman’s association with the Progressive Labour Party’s split in 1985 which resulted in the formation of the National Liberal Party, I respectfully consider that in 1998 he emerged as one of the Island’s respected elder statesman with the ascension of the PLP.

“He was able to look at matters with an objective pair of eyes. He was never shy to offer his view and could do so in a dignified manner which commanded respect from others.

“I will forever remember our last meeting at St George’s Cricket Club on the eve of Cup Match 2011 when he and his darling wife came to Wellington Oval to absorb the atmosphere of Cup Match.

“My prayers go out to his family and friends as they reconcile the loss of a great father figure, community man and elder statesman.”

Former UBP MP Dr Clarence Terceira said he had known Mr Brangman since he was just 12 years-old and described him as a "very, very close friend".

He said: "He had such a great personality, he was such a great Bermudian. He just had this way of putting you at ease and he got on with people from all walks of life.

"He was a good speaker, which is why he did so well as a parlimentarian and he worked very hard for the people of his constituency. He was also a great family man who loved his family dearly".

Useful websites: www.plp.bm

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 25, 2011 at 10:01 am (Updated August 25, 2011 at 10:01 am)

Pioneering architect and politician Walter Brangman dies at 81

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