Sir Clifford Campbell – multifaceted Independence governor general
In August 1962 when Jamaica became an independent nation, the British government, through the governor, was no longer responsible for the day-to-day administration of the country’s affairs. Yet, it was not a total severance. The Queen remained head of state to be represented by a governor general, the first one being Sir Kenneth Blackburne, a Briton himself.
Blackburne’s tenure was short-lived as he went on pre-retirement leave on November 30. Preparations were made for a replacement before that day came. Jamaica Labour Party senator Clifford Clarence Campbell was recommended by Jamaica’s first prime minister, Sir Alexander Bustamante. He was appointed by The Queen on October 18, thus becoming Jamaica’s first native governor general.
Prior to the appointment, The Queen had made the then president of the Senate, the Honourable Clifford Clarence Campbell, a Knight of the Grand Cross of The Most Distinguished Order of St Michael and St George (GCMG), the first of scores of accolades that he would eventually receive.
On Thursday, November 15, 1962, The Gleaner reported that Senator Clifford Campbell enjoyed lunch with the Queen at Buckingham Palace, where he was presented with the insignia of The Most Distinguished Order of St Michael and St George. He was on his way back from the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, held in Lagos, Nigeria. It was big news for many reasons. But, who was Sir Clifford before his rise to such prominence?
Campbell was born on June 28, 1892, 70 years before Independence, in Petersfield, Westmoreland, to James Campbell, a civil servant, and Blanche Ruddock. From Petersfield Elementary School (1901-1912) he left for Mico Training College in St Andrew where he studied from 1913 to 1915. One year later, he was appointed headmaster at Fullersfield Government School where he served until 1918, when he moved to Friendship Elementary School.
While Campbell was still at Friendship, on August 1, 1920, he married Alice Estephene, daughter of one William Jolly, a prominent land owner, and Francis Davis. The Anglicans eventually produced four children: Winston, Newton, Myrtle and Clair. He remained as headmaster at Friendship until 1928. He then became principal of Grange Hill Government School from 1928 to 1944.
From school administration Clifford Campbell segued into representational politics when in 1944 he won the Western Westmoreland seat in the House of Representatives on a JLP ticket in the first elections under Universal Adult Suffrage. Coming from a long career in education he was also established as the chairman of the House Committee on Education in 1945, a position he held until 1949, when he left representative politics. He was also the last vice-president of the Elected Members’ Association, from 1945 to 1954. In 1950, he became speaker of the House, and in 1962 he was elevated to the high office of president of Senate.
Sir Clifford’s intellect and experience were always in demand, and he answered to many of the calls for his involvement on boards and committees, such as the Manchester Committee of the Western Federation of Teachers, the Board of Visitors to Savanna-la-Mar Public Hospital, the Advisory Committee of the Knockalva Practical Training Centre (1945), the Board of Education (1944 to 1945), the Westmoreland School Board, the ISSA Scholarship Award Committee (1945), the Westmoreland Rice Growers’ Association, the Committee on Training of Government Officers (1945).
He was the last vice-president of the Association of Westmoreland Branches of the Jamaica Agricultural Society, and a member of the delegation sent to investigate the conditions that Jamaican farm workers in the USA were living in, in 1945. The little fellow from Petersfield evolved into a big Fellow of the Royal Commonwealth Society; president of the Jamaica Flying Club, the Jamaica National Choral and Orchestral Society, and the Jamaica Youth Clubs Council. President and grand patron of the Jamaica Legion, and patron of Boys’ Town, the Jamaica Agricultural Society, the Jamaica Football Federation, and the Jamaica Cancer Society are also on the list.
Sir Clifford Clarence Campbell, Order of the Nation, GCMG, Knight Grant Cross of the Royal Victorian Order, retired in March 1973, and died on September 28, 1991, nine months before his 100th birthday. He was succeeded by Florizel Augustus Glasspole.