|Sir Emile Rudolph Gumbs
Former Chief Minister of Anguilla
Sir Emile Gumbs was a politician from Anguilla and the country's second Chief Minister.
Emile Rudolph Gumbs was born in Basseterre, St. Kitts on 15 March 1928 to Anguillian parents, Johnson Emile and Inez Beatrice (nee Carty) Gumbs. His parents moved back to Anguilla when Emile was a toddler, and he grew up under the caring watch of the extended household and community of North Hill and also Sandy Ground. With this large family circle of support, Emile developed the ability to relate to everyone, a talent he was to develop and put to good use later in his political life. As a child, he attended Sister Vera’s school in North Hill and then the Grammar Primary School in St. Kitts returning to Anguilla upon his graduation with honours.
As a young man, Emile, like many of his fellow Anguillians, sought work overseas and worked in the oil refinery in Lago Oil, Aruba before signing on to sail on tankers which took him as far south as Lake Maracaibo and north to Jacksonville, Florida. It was onboard the tanker in 1948 where he won his first election, as crew representative.
He eventually returned to Anguilla, and in 1955 began sailing his own trading sloop, the Venus. As Captain of the Venus, he traded between Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, St. Kitt’s and his home, Anguilla.
When his grandfather, Captain Arthur Romney Carty’s famous schooner, the Warspite was damaged and sank during Hurricane Donna in 1960, Emile’s determination to save and relaunch her, earned him the command of the beloved Anguilla vessel. As Captain of the Warspite, Emile traded as far afield as Trinidad & the Dominican Republic. The Warspite also carried supplies and men to the lighthouse at Sombrero.
Upon the death of his mentor and uncle Elliot Carty, who had been managing the Anguilla Road Salt Company, Emile took over the management of the Salt Company.
In 1967, life got even busier for Emile. Actively involved in Anguilla’s bid for separation from St. Kitts, Emile became fully embroiled in the struggle. He was actively engaged in this Revolutionary Period, and a member of the Peacekeeping Committee, which managed the island’s affairs until elections could be held. He subsequently was very involved in crafting the new relationship between Britain and Anguilla. On August Monday Emile flew to Antigua spending hours representing Anguilla’s case for separation from St. Kitts until it was agreed on no armed forces from the West Indies (Barbados, Trinidad, Guyana, and Jamaica) would take any action against Anguilla.
On 30 July 1968, Anguilla’s held its first general election after breaking away from St. Kitts the year before. Emile won his seat of Road North, for membership of the Anguilla Council, in which he served as Secretary.
In subsequent elections, both during the time of the Anguilla Council and later, after the creation of the Anguilla (Constitution) Order 1976 by her Majesty the Queen, which provided for a Ministerial System of Government, Emile continued to be elected into office.
In the first General Election in 1976, under the new Anguilla Constitution, Emile was one of the first members of the Legislature to be appointed a Minister, with Ronald Webster as Chief Minister. He was assigned the job of Minister of Works, Communications and Tourism.
On 1 February 1977, following a vote of no confidence in the government at that time, Emile was appointed as Anguilla’s second Chief Minister, in which he served until the next election in May 1980. In the following election in March 1984, he returned to his role as Chief Minister, was re-elected in 1989 and continued to serve in this capacity until his retirement on 16 March 1994. Emile has the honour of being Anguilla’s longest running Chief Minister, serving a total of 13 years in this capacity.
After his retirement from office in 1994, Sir Emile kept himself busy. He continued to provide advice and support in the political arena. He also worked at maintaining his beautiful home in Sandy Ground, which was built by his Grandfather in 1902. Moreover, he remained in active service to his community at large. Sir Emile was an active member of the Anguilla Archaeological and Historical Society and the Anguilla National Trust. He is fondly remembered by many Anguilla visitors for his guided historical and nature walking tours around the Road Bay Salt Pond, one of his favorite activities after retirement.
Honours and awards
He was the only person from Anguilla to have been knighted, having been made a Knight Bachelor in the 1994 New Year Honours.
While stopping in St. Kitts in 1962, Emile met his first wife Janice (nee Bradley). After their marriage in Canada, Emile & Janice moved into the White House in Sandy Ground, Anguilla. Their son, Lawrence was born on 3 May 1965. In the midst of the beginnings of a new Anguilla, he and Janice also celebrated the birth of their daughter, Catherine, on 22 July 1968.
Emile Gumbs died on 10 May 2018 at the age of 90 at the Princess Alexandra Hospital in The Valley, Anguilla. He was accorded an Official (State) Funeral on Friday, 25 May 2018 at the St. Mary’s Anglican Church. Following the service, his body was interred at the Bethel Methodist Church cemetery at South Hill.