Sir Branford Mayhew Taitt, KA
Former Cabinet Minister and President of Senate of Barbados
One of the founding fathers of modern Barbados, Sir Branford Taitt played a key role in remaking the island's economy, improving health care for Barbadians and promoting educational exchanges between institutions of higher learning in Barbados, its neighbouring islands and the United States.
Early life and education
Sir Branford was born of humble beginnings in Fairfield, Black Rock, St. Michael, Barbados the youngest of five children born to St. Clair Rollock and Elma Taitt-Rollock. Sir Branford received his formal education at Wesley Hall Boys School and Combermere School. He was soprano soloist in St. Michael’s Cathedral choir under the leadership of the late Gerald Hudson.
On completion of his secondary education, Sir Branford, spent his first working years with Cable and Wireless in Barbados and Antigua. He later followed his future bride Marjorie to New York, where she was working as a nurse at Brookdale Medical Centre. In 1962, Sir Branford married and began his career in public service with the United Nations Secretariat.
From his early years, he was firmly focused on his task of contributing to the development of this country and ensuring that all Barbadians could benefit from what this country had to offer. An intellectual, Sir Branford was a student of not just life, he yearned to make the lives of people he came into contact with more meaningful.
He was interested in an early age at looking for ways to position this island as a tourism destination, while also looking at developing the industrial capabilities of the country which he loved so much. This was seen in his prolific writings in newspapers, while an undergraduate student at Brooklyn College, where his writings caught the attention of the Barbadian Government and he was eventually invited in 1965 to become the first manager of the Barbados Development Board in New York. In 1967, Sir Branford was invited to become Barbados’ first Consul-General in New York with responsibility for the entire United States of America.
In 1971, His Excellency, the Right Excellent Errol Barrow invited Sir Branford to return home to serve as a senator and Minister of Trade Industry and Commerce, a position he held until 1976, when he was then elected to serve as a Member of Parliament representing the then constituency of St. Michael South West.
He was re-elected to the country’s Lower House four consecutive times. In 1996, Sir Branford was recognised by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association of Barbados for “25 consecutive years of distinguished parliamentary service.” Sir Branford currently holds the record as the longest-serving Parliamentarian – from 1971 to 1999.
Sir Branford held several high positions in the country’s Administration, including Minister of Tourism and Industry from 1986- 87; Minister of Health from 1987-1993 and Minister of Foreign Affairs form 1993-1994. Sir Branford, as the longest serving Health Minister in the country’s history, represented Barbados at the World Health Assembly for six years. He was elected President of the 23rd Pan American Sanitary Conference in 1990 and was, for many years, chairman of PAHO’s Sub-Committee on Planning and Programming. He has also served as Chairman of the Caribbean Conference of Health Ministers. In 1995, Sir Branford was appointed a member and chairman of the World Health Organization’s Multidisciplinary Task Force on Health and Development. In his capacity as Minister of Health, Sir Branford was responsible for the introduction of cardiac care at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
Sir Branford served as president of the DLP for three terms and as General Secretary for several years and has been an asset to his political colleagues as well. He was campaign manager in the successful by-elections of now Sir Richard Haynes and Mrs Sybil Leacock. He has managed every National Campaign for the DLP since 1971.
Sir Branford worked tirelessly in his representation of Barbados overseas, especially in the field of education. He collaborated with faculty members at Brooklyn College to establish a summer exchange programme between that College and the UWI for students of public administration. He was a guest lecturer at several colleges and universities in the United States, including Brooklyn College, Yale, Hampton University, Pace College and the University of Puerto Rico. In 2003 a scholarship in his name was established at Drexel University for students of international studies. He was a distinguished visiting professor at Drexel for many years. He also lectured at the Cave Hill campus of the University of the West Indies.
Sir Branford was the recipient of several degrees – a bachelor’s degree cum laude from Brooklyn College of the City University of New York, a Master of Public Administration degree from New York University, an upper second class honours degree in Law from the Cave Hill Campus of UWI. In 2007, he was the first Caribbean scholar to be conferred with an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters degree from Brooklyn College.
As a scholar, Sir Branford published more than 200 articles in journals, newspapers and periodicals. He received many award, including the US Government’s Distinguished Visitor Award (1983) and the Sir Gaston Johnston Memorial Prize of the University of the West Indies for Excellence in Criminal Law. He was named Distinguished Alumnus of the Year by Brooklyn College by Brooklyn College in 1974.
His love for his country was so great that he encouraged not only his late wife, Marjorie, to read for her UWI degree in history, but all three of their children, who each received their first degrees there as well.
God was central in Sir Branford's life. He is a faithful member of St. Leonard's Anglican Church and he has served as a member of the Synod of the Anglican Diocese of Barbados for several years. For more than 30 years, he invited choirs to his Black Rock home every Good Friday night, to perform "The Crucifixion."
In 2004, Sir Branford formally retired from active politics, only to be called to service again in 2008 when he was asked to serve as a Senator; he was elected by his colleague senators to be President. He resigned as President of the Senate in March 2012.
Honours and awards
On 30 November 2010 Sir Branford received Barbados’ top award, the Knight of St Andrew (KA), in the 2010 Independence Day Honours List.
Sir Branford was married to his second wife, Colleen, and had three children – Sharonne, Monique and Branford Jr, a grandson Marley, 3 step-children – Dawn-Marie, Gina and Sean and 7 step-grandchildren.
Sir Branford died on Friday, 15 February 2013, aged 74.