|Jon Michael Geoffrey Manningham 'Tom' Adams
Former Prime Minister of Barbados
When he died in March 1985, at the relatively young age of 53, Tom Adams was already considered to be among the more brilliant Caribbean leaders of his time.
Early life and education
Born 24 September 1931, politics was never a distant issue for Tom Adams. Jon Michael Geoffrey Manningham Adams known better as "Tom" Adams, was the only son of Grantley Adams (a lawyer and the first and only Prime Minister of the Federation of the British West Indies) and Grace née Thorne.
He was educated at Harrison College, Barbados, from which he won a Barbados Scholarship to Magdalen College of the University of Oxford. Like his father, he had always possessed a wider vision of the West Indies and, after graduating from Oxford University in Britain with a Masters Degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics, the lawyer who was called to the British Bar in 1965, devoted most of his life to improving upon the social, economic and political well being of the people of Barbados.
Before his return to Barbados, Adams had worked for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), an exposure which served him well on his entry into politics, serving as Secretary of the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) until his death.
He was elected to Parliament in 1966, the year Barbados became independent and in 1971 he became Leader of the Opposition.
He served as the Prime Minister of Barbados between 1976 and 1985. His party, the Barbados Labour Party (BLP), had capitalized on the population's desire for a change from Errol Barrow's Democratic Labour Party (DLP), which had governed the island since independence in 1966.
In 1976 Adams led the party to victory and was elected prime minister after a campaign focusing on the rise in unemployment, inflation, and government waste. In his first term, Adams managed to cut unemployment nearly in half, increase per capita income and growth, achieve a balance of payments surplus for three years, and expand tourism. Because of the country's economic prosperity, the BLP government was re-elected for a second term in 1981, winning seventeen out of twenty-seven seats. Adams's second term was marked by economic problems and a major crisis in Grenada.
Tom Adams moved the island in the direction of Thatcher's Britain and Reagan's USA, reflecting the conservatism of the early 1980s. This alliance found its greatest expression when Tom Adams was the leading proponent in the grouping of Eastern Caribbean states which asked Reagan to intervene in overthrowing the Cuban-backed communist regime of Maurice Bishop in Grenada. Barbados was used as a staging point for some of the United States forces, and a nominal contingent of the Barbados Defence Force accompanied in the invasion force's wake, not least to allow (as Barrow claimed) Reagan to gild the statistics. The Bajan population was of two minds about Adams's move, generally conceding that Bishop had moved Grenada too far, but being uneasy with Reagan's US heavy-handedness.
Adams took the lead in forming an Eastern Caribbean Security alliance in 1982 and, in the aftermath of the Grenada invasion, had proposed a single regional army to prevent the violent takeover of Caribbean governments. But his regional opponents criticised the move as "militarisation" of the region.
In 1979, Adams sent members of the Barbados Defence Force to Union Island in St. Vincent and the Grenadines to quell a short-lived rebellion by a group of young people.
In an autobiographical sketch, Adams listed watching and reading about cricket as his favourite hobby along with philately and gardening.
Death and legacy
Adams died suddenly of a heart attach at Illaro court on 11 March 1985 at the age of 53. He was the first sitting Prime Minister of Barbados to die in office. He was survived by his wife Genevieve and his two sons, Douglas and Rawdon. He was buried in Bridgetown, Barbados, at the churchyard of the Cathedral Church of Saint Michael and All Angels on Saint Michael's Row.
The building in Bridgetown which houses the Central Bank of Barbados is today known as the Tom Adams Financial Centre in his honour. He is also one of the namesakes of the island's ABC Highway.