This Day in History – August 6, 1967

Prime Minister of Jamaica dies


On this day in 1967, The Prime Minister of Jamaica, Sir William Alexander Clarke Bustamante, died.

Sir William Alexander Clarke Bustamante was a Jamaican politician and labor leader who in 1962 became the first prime minister of Jamaica. He founded the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union following the 1938 labour riots and the Jamaican Labour Party in 1943. Bustamante honored in Jamaica with the title National Hero of Jamaica in recognition of his achievements.

He became a leader in activism against colonial rule. He gained recognition by writing frequent letters on the issues to the Daily Gleaner newspaper.

In 1937 he was elected as treasurer of the Jamaica Workers’ Union (JWU), who had founded by labour activist Allan G.S. Coombs. During the 1938 labour rebellion, he quickly became identified as the spokesman for striking workers, who were mostly of African and mixed-race descent. Coombs’ JWU became the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union (BITU) after the revolt, and Bustamante became known as “The Chief”.

In 1940, he imprisoned on charges of subversive activities. The public anti-colonial activism finally resulted in Parliament’s granting universal suffrage in 1944 to residents in Jamaica.


Released from prison in 1943, Bustamante founded the Jamaica Labour Party the same year. Previously, he belonged to the People’s National Party. Bustamante’s party won 22 of 32 seats in the first House of Representatives elected by universal suffrage.

Jamaica Labour Party

He became the unofficial government leader, representing his party as Minister for Communications until the position of Chief Minister created in 1953. He held this position until the JLP defeated in 1954. In 1947 and 1948, he was elected as mayor of Kingston. In 1952 he was arrested by the American authorities while he was on official business in Puerto Rico.

Though initially a supporter of the Federation of the West Indies, during the 1950s, Bustamante gradually opposed the union. He agitated for Jamaica to become independent of Great Britain. He said that the JLP would not contest a by-election to the federal parliament. His rival and cousin, Premier Norman Manley, called a referendum on the issue in 1961. Jamaicans voted for the nation’s withdrawal from the Federation.

After Jamaica was granted independence in 1962, Bustamante served as the first Prime Minister. In 1965, after suffering a stroke, he withdrew from active participation in public life.


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