Franklin Andrew Merrifield Baron
First Chief Minister of Dominica
Franklin Baron (also known as Frank Baron) was from 1 January 1960 to January 1961 Chief Minister of Dominica.
Franklin Andrew Merrifield "Frank" Baron was born at Portsmouth, Dominica on 19 January 1923. He was educated at the Portsmouth Government School, The Dominica Grammar School and St. Mary’s Academy. He started his business career in 1939 as Manager of his father’s company, A. A. Baron & Company, a firm engaged in import/export activities, general merchandise and groceries and assumed partnership of the firm in1945. He was involved in the first exports of bananas after World War II and was a founding member of the Dominica Banana Growers Association (DBGA).
He served on the Roseau Town Council in the 1940s. He unsuccessfully contested the Portsmouth Legislative Council seat in 1951 general elections, losing to R. B .Douglas. As a result of this defeat he abandoned Portsmouth and concentrated his attention on Roseau and the south of Dominica. He won the Roseau South seat in the 1954 and 1957 general elections.
In March 1956, the ministerial system of government was introduced and Baron was made Minister for Trade and Production.
In 1957, Franklin Baron formed the Dominica United People's Party (DUPP). In 1958, Dominica obtained autonomy within the West Indian Federation and the elections of 1959 were won by the DUPP. Baron created a cabinet and was Chief Minister. A year later, elections were held again resulting in a vicotry for the Dominica Labour Party (DLP) led by Edward LeBlanc.
In 1957, he founded the Dominica United Peoples Party (DUPP) and formed the government. During 1957 he represented Dominica at talks in Jamaica and Barbados leading to the creation of the Federation of the West Indies the following year. Baron represented the Windward Islands at talks in London on the winding up of military bases in the West Indies between the United States of America, United Kingdom and West Indies in 1957. He was deeply involved in laying out Goodwill as a suburb of Roseau and Franklyn Lane is named after him.
In constitutional changes resulting from the 1959 Constitution, and coming into effect in January 1960, Baron was made Minister of Finance and first Chief Minister of Dominica. He lost his seat and the government to the Dominica Labour Party (DLP) in the general elections of 17 January 1961. Baron’s DUPP government was responsible for planning, negotiating and beginning several important infrastructural projects such as Melville Hall Airport and the roads to the east coast, but these were completed during the first years of the DLP government and were forever associated with Edward Le Blanc’s leadership.
When the DUPP lost to the DLP by a landslide in the 1966 general elections he quit active politics and returned to business, tourism and real estate. He built and operated the Sisserou Hotel. He was a prime mover in the Rotary Club’s construction of a Psychiatric Unit to replace the outdated St. Luke’s psychiatric home.
He was a great friend of Mary Eugenia Charles and when her Dominica Freedom Party came to power in 1980, Frank Baron was very much a power behind the scenes. Dame Eugenia appointed him to several diplomatic posts. He served as High Commissioner to the Court of St. James, London, and was Ambassador to the United Nations, Organization of American States, and the United State.
In business, Baron built the Sisserou Hotel in the 1970s and was the Chairperson of Fort Young Hotel in the 1980s.
He bought the majority shares in the Chronicle newspaper in 1990 and played an active role in the management of the newspaper until he sold it.He also established Paramount Printers Ltd. and, at the age of 90, bought the Nature's Water plant in Canefield.
Honours and award
He was the awardee of Dominica’s highest recognition, the Dominica Award of Honour (DAH) in 2005, an award that is conferred upon each president of the country.
Baron is maried to wife Sybil Baron. He was the father of Royette, Frances, Edward, Frederick (Member of Parliament for the Soufriere Constituency 2000-2005), Annie, Dave, Francine (Minister for Foreign Affairs, CARICOM Affairs, Minister of State in the Office of the Prime Minister responsible for Project Planning and Implementation) and Franklyn.
In 2003, Irving W. Andre published a biography of Franklin under the title Franklin Andrew Merrifield Baron: A Biography of Dominica's First Chief Minister: The Man, the Myth, and the Mission.
Death and legacy
Baron died on Saturday, 9 April 2016 at the Princess Margaret Hospital , aged 93. He was acorded a State Funeral n Saturday, 23 April 2016 at the St. Gerard's Hall Chapel followed by internment in the Roseau Catholic Cemetery.
In 2003, Irving W. Andre published Baron's biography: Franklin Andrew Merrifield Baron: A Biography of Dominica's First Chief Minister: The Man, the Myth, and the Mission.