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The life of a leader


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THE HONOURABLE DAVID JOHN HOWARD THOMPSON. Born on Christmas Day 1961, the same year that the Right Excellent Errol Walton Barrow (many years later his mentor) became the Premier of Barbados, it was as if David Thompson was destined for great things and high office.
The third child of Barbadians Margaret and Charles Thompson, he spent his early childhood in metropolitan London in Britain, where he was born, and idyllic Barbados, where he was nurtured and schooled.
He received his primary education at St Gabriel’s Junior School before proceeding to Combermere School for his secondary education. It was while at Combermere that he developed and displayed his considerable intellectual capacity and prowess. It was also there that he excelled in the cut and thrust of debate and public speaking.
Indeed, he came to prominence and public attention as the leading panellist for his alma mater, in the then popular television programme Understanding. On that programme, he evinced much wit, erudition and sagacity, as he made his mark as one well versed and knowledgeable, often exuding confidence, maturity and a grasp of topical issues that belied his youthfulness.
That forum, and his active membership in the youth arm of the Democratic Labour Party (DLP), the Young Democrats (he was the president between 1980 and 1982), virtually catapulted the then precocious youth into the national limelight and he was seen as a future leader bequeathed to Barbados by Barrow.
David Thompson completed his secondary schooling at Combermere, securing a Barbados Exhibition in 1979. He returned and taught at his alma mater for a year before entering the Law Faculty of the University of the West Indies, where he read for a degree, graduating with honours in 1984.
He then pursued the Legal Education Certificate at the Hugh Wooding Law School of the University of the West Indies in Trinidad. That prepared him for his chosen and natural profession. He further honed his legal and oratorical skills at the feet of Errol Barrow, QC, whose law firm Trident Chambers he joined in 1986. There, he rubbed shoulders with some of the other legal luminaries of the day: Asquith Phillips, QC; George Moe, QC; Carol Fields, QC; and Philip Greaves, QC.
Between 1986 and 1988, he served as a part-time tutor in law at the University of the West Indies. Following Barrow’s untimely death in 1987, he successfully contested the by-election in the constituency of St John which he has represented ever since. Thompson’s first Cabinet appointment was in 1991 when he was made Minister of Community Development and Culture.
His passion for and commitment to meaningful youth development, as well as his interest in culture, saw him in the vanguard in the establishment of the Barbados Youth Service and the Youth in Business Programme, as well as in the restructuring of the National Youth Orchestra.
From 1992 to 1993, he was switched to the Ministry of Finance as Minister of State, and between 1993 and 1994 he assumed full responsibility for that ministry. During that time, he was responsible for restructuring the sugar industry and the offshore sector, monitoring the Government’s successful stabilisation programme with the International Monetary Fund and the structural adjustment programme that was implemented in 1993.
Despite his demanding and weighty schedule over that crucial period, the energetic and industrious David Thompson still found time to be an effective general secretary of the DLP from 1987 to 1994.
Often described as the consummate politician by his peers, David Thompson has also experienced the vicissitudes of electoral politics over 20 years. Always handsomely winning his own riding, and by overwhelming margins in all six attempts, he was, however, the leader of the Democratic Labour Party when it lost the general elections of 1994 and 1999.
Never one to be daunted by transient setbacks, he relinquished the position of Leader of the Opposition (which he held from 1994) and the leadership of the DLP in 2003, but came back in 2006 as Opposition Leader and DLP President.
During the interregnum, he turned to his law practice, specialising in corporate, insurance, international business and property law. Prior to this, he had also established a law partnership that lasted from 1994 to 2000.
In short order, following his reappointment as Leader of the Opposition in 2006, he set about putting his stamp on the DLP. The party regrouped as he reinvigorated its rank and file and went on a relentless two-year campaign to restore the DLP as the political party of choice for the majority of Barbadians.
His efforts turned around the fortunes of the DLP and saw it regaining the reins of power in January 2008 when it won 20 of the 30 parliamentary seats. Little wonder that at age 46, Prime Minister David Thompson, Mr Barrow’s protégé, was the sixth holder of the office since Independence. He also had ministerial responsibility for the portfolios of Finance, Economic Affairs and Development, Labour, the Civil Service and Energy.
Over the years, David Thompson had provided consultancy services to a number of regional and international organisations, including the Commonwealth Secretariat, the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, the Caribbean Law Institute, the Caribbean Policy Development Centre, and the CARICOM Secretariat.
In addition, he was involved at the local community level in several cultural and sporting organisations. He was affiliated with PAREDOS, Barbados National Trust, Barbados Museum & Historical Society, Barbados Cricket Association, the UWI Guild of Graduates, Combermere School Old Scholars’ Association, Rontana Dance Movement, St John’s Cultural Cricket Club, Sussex Cricket Club and Sonnets Football Club.
His bold and much acclaimed Families First programme, in his beloved St John, is a pioneering initiative that aims to re-establish and reassert the family unit as the paramount and core constituent in the overall development of communities.
An avid reader with a near insatiable appetite for literature on people, politics and international affairs, he listed cricket, football, music and community activities as his hobbies, whenever time permitted.
Prime Minister David Thompson was married to Marie-Josephine Mara, née Giraudy, and they are the parents of three daughters: Misha, Oya and Osa-Marie.
He had been the sixth Prime Minister of Barbados since January 2008.
At a media briefing at his official Ilaro Court residence on May 14, Prime Minister David Thompson, accompanied by his personal physician Dr Richard Ishmael, said that he had been suffering stomach pains since early March. He also revealed he had undergone tests in Barbados which were inconclusive, and had also travelled with Ishmael to New York where additional tests were carried out. The process of testing would be ongoing and because of this, Attorney General and Deputy Prime Minister Freundel Stuart would assume his office in his absence.
On August 30, Thompson reassumed his post of Prime Minister, having returned to Barbados the day before. n Tuesday, September 7, Thompson left Barbados for New York on a trip of unknown nature. A short time later his personal physician informed the general public that the Prime Minister was suffering from pancreatic cancer.
Yesterday, at 2:10 a.m., Prime Minister Thompson succumbed to his illness at his Mapps, St Philip home.
Date of Birth:
December 25, 1961 (age 48) London, United Kingdom
Parents: Margaret Knight & Charles Thompson
Spouse(s)      Marie-Josephine Mara nee Giraudy
Children (3)    Misha, Oya and Osa-Marie.
Residence:     Ilaro Court 2008 – Present Mapps, St Philip
Profession:     Lawyer
Political party:    Democratic Labour Party
Date of Death:    October 23, 2010
Places of Death: At his private residence, Mapps, St Philip
Education:        St Gabriel’s  School and Combermere School
Legal Education: Certificate, Hugh Wooding Law School
1984:  University of the West Indies, Law Faculty, Graduated with Honours
Professional/Political Career:
• 1986: Admitted To Bar
• 1986-1988:  Part-time Tutor in Law, University of the West Indies
• 1987: Elected to Parliament
• 1991 – 1993:  Minister of Community Development and Culture
• 1992 – 1993:    Served as Minister of State with responsibility for Finance, Minister of Finance
• 1994:  Leader of the Democratic Labour Party
• 2001:  Resigned as leader of the Democratic Labour Party
• 2006:  Leader of the Democratic Labour Party
• 2008:  Elected Prime Minister

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