Roland Theodore Symonette

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Sir Roland Symonette
Sir. Roland Symonette Park Sign.jpg
1st Premier of the Bahamas
In office
7 January 1964 – 16 January 1967
Personal details
Born (1898-12-16)16 December 1898
Current, Eleuthera
Died 13 March 1980(1980-03-13) (aged 81)
Spouse(s) Nellie Symonette
Thelma Bell Clepper
Margaret Frances
Relations Edwin Symonette (father)
Lavania Weech (mother)
Children Basil Harcourt Symonette
Robert Symonette
Zelda Symonette
Margaret Symonette
Roland Craig Symonette
Brent Symonette

Sir Roland Theodore Symonette (16 December 1898 – 13 March 1980) achieved high office as a Bahamian political figure. Roland "Pop" Symonette was one of many children of Methodist minister Edwin Symonette and his wife Lavania (née Weech) on the small island settlement of Current, Eleuthera.

Although he had only six years of formal education, Symonette became one of the wealthiest men of his generation. An autodidact and lifelong advocate of education, Symonette was a school teacher early in his career, but, during Prohibition, Symonette 'ran' rum to the United States. With the profits from rum-running, Symonette invested in real estate, liquor stores and eventually, a shipyard. The Symonette family's holdings have never been publicly confirmed, but public speculation has placed it between $700 million and $2.5 billion USD.

In 1925, Symonette campaigned successfully for a seat in the Bahamas' House of Assembly. Symonette served in the House, representing the Shirlea district until his retirement in 1977. Symonette's 52 years as a Member of Parliament is the longest record of service in the House of Assembly.

Symonette served as the head of government of the Bahama Islands from 1955 to 1964 and in 1964, when the country achieved internal self-government, Sir Roland Symonette became the first Premier of the Bahama Islands. In 1959, Symonette was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II.

The 1967 British Royal Commission of Inquiry reported that Symonette, along with other high Bahamian officials, received large payments from the U.S. casino interests operating in the islands. See article on Prime Minister Lynden Pindling, who succeeded Symonette in 1967, and article on Sir Stafford Sands.

Symonette was married three times. By his first wife Nellie, Symonette had one son, Basil Harcourt. By his second wife, the former Thelma Bell Clepper of Andalusia, Alabama, Symonette had a one son, Robert "Bobby" and one daughter, Zelda. In the late 1940s, Symonette married Canadian Margaret Frances. producing one daughter, Margaret, who died in infancy, and two sons, Roland Craig and Brent. Symonette's son Bobby served as Speaker of the House of Assembly. His youngest son Brent Symonette was the Deputy Prime Minister of The Bahamas, Free National Movement and Minister of Foreign Affairs in the Ingraham led government.

Sir Roland Symonette died on 13 March 1980 at his home in Nassau; his widow, Lady Margaret Symonette died twenty-four years later in 2004.

Symonette's portrait appears on the Bahamian $50 note. A community park in the settlement of Current, Eleuthera, Bahamas, just feet from his birthplace, was named after him on what would have been his 111th birthday, 16 December 2009.

See also[edit]