William Ofori Atta

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William Ofori Atta
15th Minister for Foreign Affairs (Ghana)
In office
1971 – 12 January 1972
Preceded byVictor Owusu
Succeeded byMaj. Gen. Nathan A. Aferi
Personal details
Born(1910-10-10)10 October 1910
Kibi, Gold Coast[1]
Died14 July 1988(1988-07-14) (aged 77)
Political partyProgress Party
United National Convention

Nana William Ofori Atta (10 October 1910 – 14 July 1988), popularly called "Paa Willie", was a founding member of the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC) and one of the founding fathers of Ghana, as one of "The Big Six" detained by the British colonial government in the then Gold Coast. He later became a Minister for Foreign Affairs in Ghana's second republic between 1971 and 1972.

Early life[edit]

Nana William Ofori Atta was the son of Nana Sir Ofori Atta I who was the Omanhene (King) of Akyem Abuakwa between 1912 and 1943.[3] He was thus a nobleman of royal lineage of the Ofori-Atta dynasty, although the fact that the Akan people (to which he belonged) are traditionally matrilineal meant that he wasn't a dynastic prince. William Ofori Atta attended Mfantsipim School, one of the most prestigious schools in Ghana.[4] He was later among the first batch of students at the Achimota School[5] who pioneered the intermediate degree programs. He was also the first ever school prefect of the School. His batch of students went on to form the nucleus of the University of Ghana.[4] He attended Queens' College, University of Cambridge from 1935 to 1938. He became a lawyer in 1956.[6] His sister was Susan Ofori-Atta, the first Ghanaian woman to become a physician.


William Ofori Atta was a founding member of the United Gold Coast Convention. He won one of the Akim Abuakwa seats during the 1951 Gold Coast election. He later became the leader of the United Party in opposition to Dr Kwame Nkrumah. Ofori Atta was detained by Nkrumah during the first republic under the Preventive Detention Act.[7][8] During the second republic, he was Minister for Education[9] and then Minister for Foreign Affairs in the Progress Party government of Dr. Busia. He was an active member of the People's Movement for Freedom and Justice (PMFJ) which campaigned against the 'Union Government' concept by General I. K. Acheampong, then Head of state of Ghana and Chairman of the Supreme Military Council (SMC). This was an attempt by the military regime to extend military rule instead of handing back power to civilians.[6][10] After the fall of the SMC, he stood for president in the 1979 Ghanaian presidential election on the ticket of the United National Convention coming third with 17.41% of the popular vote.[11] Eventually, he became chairman of the Council of State for the Third Republic.

Later life[edit]

William Ofori Atta became a devout Christian and played various roles in Christian circles.[12] He was one of the founders of the Accra Chapel Trust, (now the Korle-Bu Community Chapel) an independent evangelical church at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital in Accra in 1967.[13] Ofori Atta delivered the J. B. Danquah Memorial Lectures organised by the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1985. His topic was – "Ghana, A Nation in Crisis".[14] He died in 1988 and was given a state burial.

William Ofori-Atta Memorial Lectures[edit]

The William Ofori-Atta Memorial Lectures were instituted in his memory after his death.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Africa Year Book and Who's Who, Africa Journal Limited, 1977, p. 1280.
  2. ^ Raph Uwechue, Makers of Modern Africa, Africa Journal Limited, 1991, p. 579.
  3. ^ Henry Soszynski (29 July 2003). "Nana William OFORI-ATTA". Genealogy of the Okyenhenes of Ghana. Henry Soszynski. Retrieved 4 April 2007.
  4. ^ a b "What does Mfantsipim Mean?". The School. Mfantsipim Old Boys Association (MOBA) 1976 year group. Retrieved 4 April 2007.
  5. ^ "ACHIMOTA TRIVIA – DID YOU KNOW- PART I?". Achimota School Alumni Website. OAA 1973 Akoras. Retrieved 4 April 2007. Did you know that prominent Ghanaian citizens who attended Achimota School include Mr. William Ofori Atta, a member of the Big Six that led the fight for Ghana's independence
  6. ^ a b Akufo-Addo, Nana (April 2003). "The role of lawyers in consolidating democracy in Africa". Paper delivered at the 8th Biennial conference of the African Bar Association (ABA) in Abuja. Niger Delta Congress. Retrieved 4 April 2007.
  7. ^ "The Preventive Detention Act of 1958, Was It A Shield or A Sword?". Feature Article. Ghana Home Page. 26 February 2005. Retrieved 4 April 2007. Yet within 1958, the pernicious Preventive Detention Act was enacted. The law empowered the government to detain anybody for not more than five years without trial. It was subsequently amended in 1959 and 1962. The 1962 amendment extended the detention period indefinitely.... By 1961 prominent leaders and stalwarts of the opposition party were either in detention or had fled the country. Victor Owusu, Joe Appiah, William Ofori Atta were in the detention
  8. ^ Busia, Kofi Abrefa (21 December 1964). "Ghana Will Be Truly Free And Happy". The Busia papers. Koranteng Ofosu-Amaah. Retrieved 4 April 2007.
  9. ^ "GHANA SECONDARY SCHOOL,TAMALE". Alumni Website. Ghana Secondary School Alumni. Retrieved 4 April 2007. On 28 June 1970 a rocket manufactured by an Indian maths teacher, Mr Lalaji and his science students, was launched in honour of the then Minister of Education Mr William Ofori -Atta.
  10. ^ Boateng, Kwame Appiah (3 June 2006). "Special tribute to Adu Boahen". Feature Article. Ghana Home Page. Retrieved 4 April 2007.
  11. ^ "Elections in Ghana". African Elections Database. Albert C. Nunley. 30 May 2006. Retrieved 4 April 2007.
  12. ^ "Christian Cable TV, etc". Gold Coast Bereans. 1 April 2006. Retrieved 4 April 2007. Mr William Ofori Atta in Ghana ( the late "Paa Willie") continued to teach and preach sound doctrine into his old age.
  13. ^ "About Us – Our history". Official Website. Korle-Bu Community Chapel. Retrieved 29 December 2012.
  14. ^ "Publications – J.B. Danquah Memorial Lectures". Official Website. Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 4 April 2007.


  • Jenkins, Ray (1994). "William Ofori Atta, Nnambi Azikiwe, J.B. Danquah and the "Grilling" of W.E.F. Ward of Achimota in 1935". History in Africa. 21 (January): 171–189. doi:10.2307/3171885. JSTOR 3171885.
Political offices
Preceded by
Minister for Education, Culture and Sports
Succeeded by
R. R. Amponsah
Preceded by
Victor Owusu
Foreign Minister
Succeeded by
Nathan Apea Aferi
Party political offices
New title Leader of the United Party
? – ?
Succeeded by
New title United National Convention presidential nominee
Succeeded by
parties banned