Thomas Davis (Cook Islands politician)

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Sir Thomas Davis

2nd & 4th Prime Minister of the Cook Islands
In office
16 November 1983 – 29 July 1987
MonarchElizabeth II
DeputyGeoffrey Henry
Terepai Maoate
RepresentativeSir Gaven Donne
Graham Speight (Acting)
Sir Tangaroa Tangaroa
Preceded byGeoffrey Henry
Succeeded byPupuke Robati
In office
25 July 1978 – 13 April 1983
MonarchElizabeth II
DeputyPupuke Robati
RepresentativeSir Gavin Donne
Preceded byAlbert Henry
Succeeded byGeoffrey Henry
Personal details
Thomas Robert Alexander Harries Davis

11 June 1917
Rarotonga, Cook Islands
Died23 July 2007(2007-07-23) (aged 90)
Rarotonga, Cook Islands
Political partyDemocratic Party
Spouse(s)Pa Tepaeru Terito Ariki
Alma materHarvard University
OccupationPhysiologist, politician

Sir Thomas Robert Alexander Harries Davis KBE (11 June 1917 – 23 July 2007)[1] was a Prime Minister of the Cook Islands and a medical researcher.

Early life and education[edit]

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.

Political career[edit]

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."[2]

On 3 August 1986[3] Davis became the first head of government to formally consult with the Universal House of Justice, the supreme governing institution of the Baháʼí Faith.[4]

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.

Personal life[edit]

Davis's second wife, Pa Tepaeru Terito Ariki, as a child in 1934

Davis co-authored the autobiographical Doctor to the Islands (1955) and the novel Makutu (1960) with his first wife, New Zealander Lydia Davis.[5][6]

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.[4] 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.[7]

Davis died in 2007 in Rarotonga, aged 90.

Honours and awards[edit]

In 1977, Davis was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal.[8] 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.[9] The University of Otago awarded him an honorary Doctor of Laws degree in 2005.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Sir Tom Davis dies aged 90". 24 July 2007. Retrieved 28 September 2008.
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ Thomas Pawlowski, J. (25 November 1996). "A Brief History of the Baha'i Faith". Unpublished academic articles and papers. Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of Boise. Retrieved 15 June 2008.
  4. ^ a b Hassall, Graham (1996). "Baha'i Faith in the Asia Pacific – Issues and Prospects". Baháʼí Studies Review. Association for Baha'i Studies (English-speaking Europe). 6. Archived from the original on 14 November 2007. Retrieved 15 June 2008.
  5. ^ Subramani, "South Pacific Literature: From Myth to Fabulation", 1992, p. 14.
  6. ^ Papa Tom Obituary, John Utanga, TVNZ archive, 1990.
  7. ^ Florence Syme-Buchanan. "Cook Islands' Most Famous Son". SPasifik (74). Retrieved 29 September 2020.
  8. ^ Taylor, Alister; Coddington, Deborah (1994). Honoured by the Queen – New Zealand. Auckland: New Zealand Who's Who Aotearoa. p. 117. ISBN 0-908578-34-2.
  9. ^ "No. 48469". The London Gazette (3rd supplement). 31 December 1980. p. 40.
  10. ^ "Honorary doctorate for former Cook Islands PM", University of Otago Bulletin, Issue 10, (20 May 2005)