Dudley Thompson

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Dudley Joseph Thompson, OJ, QC, (19 January 1917 – 20 January 2012) was a Jamaican Pan-Africanist, politician and diplomat, who made a contribution to jurisprudence and politics in the Caribbean, Africa and elsewhere internationally.


Born in Panama, to Daniel and Ruby Thompson, he was raised in Westmoreland, Jamaica, where he was a student at The Mico (now Mico University College) in the 1930s.[1] After a short period as headmaster of a rural school, he joined the Royal Air Force during the Second World War - one of Britain's first black pilots - and saw active service (1941-5) as a flight lieutenant in RAF Bomber Command over Europe, being awarded several decorations.

Thompson married Genevieve Hannah Cezair in 1945; they had a son and two daughters.[2]

In 1946, he went to England to attend Merton College, Oxford, where he studied jurisprudence, as a Rhodes Scholar, obtaining degrees as a Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Civil Law.[2][3] From his university days he was a close associate of pan-Africanists such as Kwame Nkrumah, George Padmore and C.L.R. James. After qualifying as a barrister at Gray's Inn in the early 1950s, and doing tutelage with Dingle Foot, QC, Thompson went on to practise law in Africa - in Tanganyika and Kenya, where he became involved in the nationalist movements. He assembled the international legal team that defended Jomo Kenyatta in his trial after he had been seized by the British colonialists in 1952 and subsequently charged with treason, accused of being an instigator of the Mau Mau rebellion. Later as President of Kenya, Kenyatta memorably placed his hand on Thompson sitting beside him and said: "This man saved my life."[4] In Tanzania, where he was a friend of Julius Nyerere, Thompson is remembered as a founder of the Tanganyika African National Union (TANU).

In 1955 he returned to Jamaica,[2] and continued to educate people about furthering the links between Africa and the Caribbean, visiting schools to deliver inspirational addresses about the continent (Jamaica-born writer Lindsay Barrett was inspired to decide to live in Africa by one such visit that Thompson paid to his school, Clarendon College, in 1957).[5] He practised law in Trinidad, Barbados, St. Kitts, Dominica, Bermuda, Grenada, The Bahamas, Belize and elsewhere in the West Indies, playing a role in the independence movements of both Belize and the Bahamas.[6] He was appointed a Queen's Counsel in 1963.

He served as a member of the Jamaican Senate from 1962 to 1978,[2] and a member of the House of Representatives from 1978 to 1983. In the People's National Party (PNP) administration under Prime Minister Michael Manley, he was Minister of State for Foreign Affairs (1972-7), Minister of Mining and Natural Resources (1977-8), and Minister of National Security and Justice (1978–80). He was also a vice-president and later chairman of the PNP.[7]

Dudley Thompson represented Jamaica in many international forums, including the United Nations and the Organization of African Unity (OAU). In 1992 he was empanelled as a member of the Eminent Persons Group charged with implementing the movement for reparations for slavery to Africa and the African diaspora, under the auspices of the OAU.

Thompson was appointed Ambassador and High Commissioner to several African countries, including Nigeria, Ghana, Namibia and Sierra Leone, based in Nigeria until 1995.[8][9]

He died at the age of 96 in New York City.


Thompson was a recipient of the Order of Jamaica, one of Jamaica's most prestigious decorations, for distinguished service in the field of International Affairs and his contribution to the legal developments in Jamaica.

He was awarded the Mico Old Students' Gold Medal - the most prestigious teacher's award.[10]

The African Union declared him a "first citizen" of the continent because of his work for Africa internationally.[11] The OAU had earlier awarded him a medal in recognition of his status as a "Legend of Africa".

In 2006 in Ghana he was honoured as a "Living Legend of Africa".[12]


  1. ^ P. J. Patterson, "A tribute to the Hon Dudley J. Thompson, ambassador of Jamaica", Pambazuka News, 26 January 2012.
  2. ^ a b c d Levens, R.G.C., ed. (1964). Merton College Register 1900-1964. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. p. 383. 
  3. ^ From Kingston to Kenya: the making of a pan-Africanist lawyer, by Dudley Thompson with Margaret Cezair Thompson. Foreword by Rex Nettleford. Dover, MA: The Majority Press, 1993.
  4. ^ John Muchangi and agencies, "Man Who 'Saved' Kenyatta Dies"[permanent dead link], The Star, Kenya, 1 February 2012.
  5. ^ Lindsay Barrett, "Black History Month: Dudley Thompson, When Jamaica meets Africa", The Africa Report, 6 February 2012.
  6. ^ "The Honorable Dudley Thompson: A life well-lived, a man to remember" The Final Call, 24 January 2012.
  7. ^ Michael Burke, "Dudley Thompson's contribution", Jamaica Observer, 26 January 2012.
  8. ^ "Dudley is dead! - Former Cabinet Minister's long innings ends at 95", Jamaica Observer, 21 January 2011.
  9. ^ "Pan-African and Jamaican statesman Dudley Thompson has died. He was 95", The Miami Herald, 20 January 2012.
  10. ^ Geof Brown, "The Mico College phenomenon" Archived 12 December 2013 at the Wayback Machine., The Jamaica Gleaner, 20 October 2000.
  11. ^ "Dudley Thompson is Africa's 'first citizen'", Jamaica Observer, 2 October 2011.
  12. ^ "Former Ja'can foreign minister named African Living Legend" Archived 12 December 2013 at the Wayback Machine., Jamaica Gleaner, 8 October 2006.

External links[edit]