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Errol Walton Barrow

first Prime Minister of an independent Barbados

Errol Walton Barrow

Errol Walton Barrow was born in Nesfield, in the Parish of St. Lucy, on January 21, 1920. He was educated at Wesley Hall Boys School, from which he won a scholarship to Combermere at the age of 11. At 14 he won another scholarship to Harrison College, and in 1939 he won a scholarship to study the classics at Codrington College. Barrow chose not to take the last scholarship, however, and joined the Royal Air Force instead. He served in the European Theatre until 1945, rising to the rank of Flying Officer before ending his tour of duty. After the war he studied law, receiving his degree in 1949. He returned to Barbados as a practicing barrister-at-law in 1950.

Barrow's political career began in 1951, when he became a member of the Barbados Labour Party (BLP). He was elected to Parliament that same year, winning a seat from the Parish of St. George.

In 1955, dissatisfaction with many of the BLP's policies and programs led Barrow and others to form the Democratic Labour Party (DLP). Barrow lost his Parliament seat in the 1956 general election, but regained it in 1958 after successfully contesting a by-election in the Parish of St. John.

Barrow became Premier of Barbados after the DLP won a decisive victory in the December 4, 1961 general elections. During his tenure as Premier, Barrow instituted a crash program of public works, secondary education was made free in all government schools, agricultural laborers achieved better wages and working conditions, and construction began for some thirty industries. All this was done to help pave the way for Barbados' independence, which came on November 30, 1966.

Having been a guiding force during Barbados' transition from British colony to independent nation, Barrow was the easy choice to become the nation's first Prime Minister; he earned a second term thanks to a landslide victory for the DLP in the 1971 general elections.

A dedicated proponent of regional integration, Barrow spearheaded the foundation of the Caribbean Free Trade Association (CARIFTA) while serving as Premier. In 1968, he got Barbados admitted into the Organization of American States (OAS). In 1973, CARIFTA evolved into the Carribean Community (CARICOM) when Barbados, Guyana, Trinidad and Jamaica signed the Treaty of Chaguaramas to bolster political and economic relations between the English-speaking islands of the Caribbean.

Although Barrow had enjoyed considerable public support throughout much of his political career, his popularity was waning by the time general elections were held in 1976. Controversy over constitutional amendments proposed by the government, combined with a general economic downturn that affected much of the Western Hemisphere led to a resurgent BLP regaining the Majority, and to Barrow being replaced by J. M. G. M. Adams.

As the leader of the Opposition, Barrow was a vocal and forceful opponent of the 1983 U.S. invasion of Grenada, and a scathing critic of those Caribbean leaders -- including Prime Minister Adams -- who either ignored or openly supported it in hopes of gaining favor from the United States.

In May 1986, Barrow was re-elected Prime Minister in a landslide victory in which the DLP won 24 of 27 seats in the House of Assembly -- the largest ever margin of victory in Barbados' history. Barrow had based much of his campaign on what he called the general subordination of the Caribbean region to the will of the United States and other world powers in order to gain economic favors, and he took his massive victory as a clear mandate that the people of Barbados were ready for major changes.

Barrow did not live to see his mandate fulfilled, however, as he collapsed and died at his home on June 1, 1987. Posthumously declared a National Hero, Barrow's birthday is celebrated as a national holiday, and his portrait is inscribed on the Barbados $50 bill.

See Also

Caribbean Free Trade Association (CARIFTA)
Carribean Community (CARICOM)

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The Robinson Library >> Barbados

This page was last updated on 01/19/2019.