Janet Silvera, Senior Gleaner Writer
Real estate advertising signs in the United Kingdom, which shamelessly read "no blacks, Irish or dogs allowed", in the late 1950s, did not stop the indefatigable Montego Bay land baron, Slidie Joe Whitter.
In fact, the late developer, who made his transition on Monday, August 19 at age 81, had been undaunted.
"He theorised that when he succeeded in purchasing property he would find a ready market among his fellow West Indians and could become a catalyst through which other blacks would be able to acquire property," stated former banker, Theodore Golding.
Golding was among several recognised Jamaicans who paid tribute to the late developer during his funeral mass at the Holy Trinity Church in Montego Bay, St James, last Thursday.
There were times when Whitter owned more than 600 flats, and it was by that means that he became one of the first black millionaires in Britain, said Golding.
"At the same time he was proud of the fact that he was able to get his fellow immigrants to reside and own houses in east and west London, and other areas in England which were previously regarded as out of bounds to blacks," Golding stated, as he eulogised his friend, who has left behind wife Angella, five children and three grandchildren.
The name of Whitter, who was born in St Catherine, is synonymous with the Ironshore Estate in Montego Bay, where he acquired 1,300 acres of land from a group of Canadian developers in the 1970s, after returning from the UK to Jamaica.
While extremely affluent, as a result of his acumen, that affluence did not promote atheism and selfishness, noted The Venerable Hollis Peter Lynch, Archdeacon Emeritus of the Anglican Church, as he paid tribute to Whitter in his homily.
The retired archdeacon, while lauding Whitter, said despite his riches, he had a tender and giving heart, and was deeply spiritual.
"He is the only man I met in the 51 years that I have been in the Church who was never afraid to tell his friends to come to church," Lynch told the packed hall of well wishers, which included some of the most prominent names in politics and business, such as former Prime Minister Bruce Golding; Minister of Labour Derrick Kellier, the member of parliament for South St James; Custos of St James Ewen Corrodus; Montego Bay Mayor Glendon Harris; State Minister and MP for West Central St James Sharon Ffolkes-Abrahams and deputy speaker of the House, Lloyd B. Smith, the MP for Central St James.
Lynch spoke of a fearless Whitter who competed with Montego Bay businessman Dennis Morgan to provide building blocks used to construct the church's recreational hall.
"They competed to build the hall. If one bought 300 building blocks and the other found out, he would match it with the same amount," Lynch said.
Whitter, who was appointed a member of the Order of Distinction, (Officer Class) for his entrepreneurship, was sent home in fine style in a mass officiated by The Rt Reverend Leon Paul Golding, Bishop, Suffragan of Montego Bay.
Photos by Janet Silvera