Thomas Davis (Cook Islands politician)
Sir Thomas Davis
|2nd & 4th Prime Minister of the Cook Islands|
16 November 1983 – 29 July 1987
|Deputy||Geoffrey Henry |
|Representative||Sir Gaven Donne|
Graham Speight (Acting)
Sir Tangaroa Tangaroa
|Preceded by||Geoffrey Henry|
|Succeeded by||Pupuke Robati|
25 July 1978 – 13 April 1983
|Representative||Sir Gavin Donne|
|Preceded by||Albert Henry|
|Succeeded by||Geoffrey Henry|
Thomas Robert Alexander Harries Davis
11 June 1917
Rarotonga, Cook Islands
|Died||23 July 2007 (aged 90)|
Rarotonga, Cook Islands
|Political party||Democratic Party|
|Spouse(s)||Pa Tepaeru Terito Ariki|
|Alma mater||Harvard University|
Early life and education
Davis was born on the island of Rarotonga, his full name being Thomas Robert Alexander Harries Davis. He was the first Cook Islands medical graduate in New Zealand, finishing his studies at the University of Otago in 1945. He then served as Medical Officer in the Cook Islands working to improve the country's health system.
In 1952, he went to Harvard University, initially completing a Master of Public Health, before joining their Department of Nutrition. Subsequently, he worked for various parts of the armed forces as a research physiologist, before joining NASA to work on the space program.
Davis was a founder of the Cook Islands Democratic Party in 1971, and became opposition leader in 1972, going on to serve as Prime Minister from 25 July 1978, until 13 April 1983, and following the short first tenure of Geoffrey Henry, again from 16 November 1983, until 29 July 1987, when he left office while the Democratic Party was still in power.
In 1985 at a South Pacific Forum meeting he announced, mostly to gain local electoral kudos and in "bone-headed stupidity", that the Cooks would reconsider the relationship with New Zealand. David Lange, who disliked Davis, said if the Cooks wanted independence he would cut aid and remove New Zealand citizenship rights. Lange also said "We can probably throw in a second-hand Orion at a knock down rate so you can do your own maritime surveillance."
Davis later went on to serve as High Commissioner to New Zealand.
During Davis's first term as Prime Minister, two changes were made to the constitution which altered the symbols of the country. In 1979, the Cook Islands Ensign was adopted to replace the previous flag of 15 yellow stars on a green background. In 1982, "Te Atua Mou E" was adopted as the national anthem of the Cook Islands, replacing "God Defend New Zealand". Davis wrote the music to "Te Atua Mou E" and his wife wrote the lyrics.
In 1979, Davis married Pa Tepaeru Terito Ariki (1923–1990), the paramount chief of the Takitumu tribe in the Cook Islands. She had nine children, three boys and six girls, from a previous marriage to George Ani Rima Peyroux. Pa Terito had become a Baháʼí in the 1950s; sometime after 1986, Davis joined the Baháʼí Faith. Davis and his wife wrote the music and lyrics to "Te Atua mou e", the national anthem of the Cook Islands since 1982. In 2000, Davis married for a third time, to American Carla Cassata, but they separated ten months before his death.
Davis died in 2007 in Rarotonga, aged 90.
Honours and awards
In 1977, Davis was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal. He was appointed a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire, for services to medicine and the people of the Cook Islands, in the 1981 New Year Honours. The University of Otago awarded him an honorary Doctor of Laws degree in 2005.
- "Sir Tom Davis dies aged 90". 24 July 2007. Retrieved 28 September 2008.
- Laidlaw, Chris (1999). Rights of Passage – Beyond the New Zealand Identity Crisis. Auckland, N.Z.: Hodder Moa Beckett (Hachette New Zealand). p. 56. ISBN 9781869587239.
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- "Honorary doctorate for former Cook Islands PM", University of Otago Bulletin, Issue 10, (20 May 2005)