Sir William (Randolph)Douglas 1921- 2003


(b. Sept. 24, 1921, Barbados - d. Aug. 12, 2003, Pau, France), acting governor-general of Barbados (1976, 1984). He was chief justice in 1965-86. He was knighted in 1969.


When Barbados achieved independence in 1966, William Douglas, who has died aged 81, was its chief justice. He went on to become his country's High Commissioner in London (1991-93), the climax of his representative career. He was also Barbados's ambassador to the United States (1987-91).

He presided over the judicial administration of the island from 1965 to 1986. Passionate about justice, he ensured the courts' independence. That passion was bulwarked by a magnificent intellect.


Douglas was born in Barbados but his parents emigrated to Canada when he was four years old. He was educated in Quebec at Bannatyne School, Verdun high school and McGill University in Mon treal. His links with Canada were to be lifelong. He read law at the London School of Economics.


Following his call to the bar he returned to Barbados in 1948. In 1959 he became Jamaica's assistant attorney-general and was appointed solicitor-general four years later. Then came the appointment as chief justice of Barbados in 1965, a year before independence.


Since 1975 he had been a member of the International Labour Organisation's committee of experts on applications of conventions and recommendations, chairing it from 1995. He was a member of the ILO's fact-finding commission to South Africa in 1993 and its commission into forced labour in Burma in 1997-98.He was an ILO judge from 1982-98.


The Washington ambassadorship enabled him to build up the relationship of his tiny land with the US. It also provided him with a rich repertoire of Reagan-era stories, retailed with relish within the walls of his home.

Knighted in 1969, he was made a privy councillor eight years later. Douglas was a modest, charming man with a great presence and a delicious and spontaneous Barbadian humour. He loved watching sport - Grand Prix motor racing above all - and was intrigued by things mechanical. Once, in Pau, where he was a member of the local golf club, he spent so long watching the assemblage of a crane that he was presumed lost.


He shared deep Christian faith with his wife, Thelma, who died in 1992, and with his second wife, Denise, whom he married in 1997. A magnificent human being, his death has been greeted with widespread grief in the Barbados he served so well. His second wife, and his children, survive him.



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