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Donald Burns Sangster
(26 October 1911 - 11 April 1967)
The Most Hon. Sir Donald Burns Sangster
Former Prime Minister of Jamaica

The Most Hon. Sir Donald Burns Sangster was a Jamaica politician and former Prime Minister.

Early life and education

Sir Donald was born on 26 October 1911. He was the son of the late W. B. Sangster, Commissioned Land Surveyor of Black River, St. Elizabeth, and Casandra Sangster. He was educated at Munro College (1921-1929) and was admitted to practice as a solicitor in Jamaica in 1937.

Donald Sangster was a versatile sportsman, participating actively in cricket, football, athletics and boxing while attending college. This interest in sports continued after he left Munro College, and at one time he was captain of the St. Elizabeth Parish team in the Nethersole Cricket Cup Competition.


He began his political career at the age of 21 when he campaigned and won a seat in the St. Elizabeth Parochial Board on June 22, 1933 .  He became Vice-Chairman of his Parochial Board in 1941, and Chairman in 1949.           

In 1944 he made his first bid to enter national politics when as an Independent Candidate he contested the South St. Elizabeth constituency seat, and lost.  He joined the Jamaica Labour Party and subsequently won his seat in the General Election of 1949.  His political career in national politics suffered a temporary set-back in February 1955, when his party lost the General Election and he himself lost his seat in South St. Elizabeth .  Later that year he however successfully contested a by-election for the North-East Clarendon constituency.

Sir Donald was a member of the House of Representatives since 1949, and was First Deputy Leader of the JLP since 1950.  He was Leader of the House from 1953 to 1955, and was reappointed to this post in 1962.  In June 1966, Sir Donald relinquished this post.  At the time of his death he represented the constituency of North Central Clarendon in Parliament.

He was Minister of Social Welfare from 1950 to 1953 and Minister of Finance from 1953 until 1955 when his party lost the General Elections.  In 1962 when the JLP was returned to office he was appointed Minister of Finance and subsequently Deputy Prime Minister.

He was appointed to act as Prime Minister, Minister of External Affairs and Minister of Defence in January 1965 as a result of the illness of the Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon. Sir Alexander Bustamante.  While acting Sir Donald retained the post of Minister of Finance.  He had previously acted for a short while as Prime Minister in 1964.

Consequent on the victory of the JLP in the General Elections on 21 February 1967 , and the resignation of Sir Alexander Bustamante, he was appointed Prime Minister on 22 February 1967 , retaining at the same time the posts of Minister of Finance and Minister of Defence.

Mr. Sangster was Jamaica’s delegate to the Commonwealth Parliament Conferences in New Zealand in 1950, Ceylon in 1952, and Malaysia in 1963, and he was Chairman of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association in 1964 and Chairman at its Conference, which was held in Jamaica in that year.

He was Jamaica ’s representative on the West Indies Regional Economic Committee from 1950 to 1955, and Leader of Jamaica’s delegations to the Commonwealth Economic Consultative Council Conferences in 1951, 1963-1966.  Jamaica was the host country for this conference in 1955 and Sir Donald presided.  He also led Jamaica ’s delegation to the World Bank and International Monetary Fund meetings in Washington (1963-1966).  He had been a Governor of the World Bank and IMF since 1963.

Sir Donald was a member of Jamaica’s delegation to the Heads of Commonwealth Caribbean conference in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad in 1963 and in Kingston, Jamaica in 1964.  He also led the delegation to these conferences in Georgetown , Guyana in 1965 and in Bridgetown, Barbados in 1966.  He also led Jamaica’s delegation to the Canada-Commonwealth Caribbean Countries in Ottawa in July 1966.

Mr. Sangster accompanied Sir Alexander Bustamante to the Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ Conference in London in 1962 and he attended this conference as Sir Alexander’s representative in 1964.  Sir Donald attended as Acting Prime Minister, the conferences in London in 1965, Lagos in 1966.

He was a member of the Joint Committee of Parliament, which framed the Constitution for Independent Jamaica, and he was a member of the delegation that went to England in 1962 to discuss it with the British Government.

He was Chairman of the University of the West Indies Grants Committee since 1963.

Sir Donald served on a number of public boards and committees during his lifetime.  He had been a member of Manning’s Home Advisory Committee, and of the East and West St. Elizabeth School Boards.  He had been a Director of Jamaica Vegetables Ltd., from 1943 to 1949, and he also played a prominent part in the scouting activities of St. Elizabeth.  He had been a member of the Munro and Dickenson Trust, the Black River Drainage and Irrigation Board and also a member of the Board of Governors of the Institute of Jamaica .

Death and legacy

After his party’s success at the 1967 General Election and his appointment as Prime Minister, Sir Donald had just completed forming his Cabinet when he became ill.  He died on 5 April 1967 at the age of 51.

Sir Donald Sangster was honoured by having the Donald Sangster International Airport named after him. His image also appears on the Jamaican one hundred dollar banknote.

Personal life

Sangster never married and had no children.

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Occupation Politician
Date of Birth 26 October 1911
Place of Birth Black River, St. Elizabeth, Jamaica
Date of Death 11 April 1967 (Aged 55)
Place of Death Montreal, Canada
Notable Accomplishments
Acting Prime Minister: February 1964 - 23 February 1967
Prime Minister of Jamaica: 23 February 1967 - 11 April 1967
Jamaica Jamaica
Heads of Government of Jamaica
Jamaica Labour Party

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