The Right Honourable George Cadle Price First Prime Minister and National Hero of Belize
The Right Honourable George Cadle Price was the first Prime Minister of Belize and is considered one of the principal architects of the country's independence, and is referred to by many as the Father of the Nation. He served as a Member of the Legislative Council from 1954-1961, The Legislative Assembly from 1961 to 1964, The House of Representatives from 1964-1984, First Minister from 1961 to 1964, Premier from 1964 to 1981 and Prime Minister of Belize from 1981 to 1984, and 1989 to 1993.
Early life and education
The Right Honourable George Cadle Price was born on 15 January 1919 at the Price Family Home at number 3 Pickstock Street in Belize City, the eldest son and third of 10 children born to William and Irene Price née Escalante. This birth place was to remain his home until his death on 19 September 2011 - three day's short of the 30th Anniversary of Belize's Independence - his crowning achievement.
Price was began his education as an infant at St. Catherine's Academy in Belize City. His primary school education was at Holy Redeemer Primary School, from where he proceeded to St. John's College in Belize City. As a first year student at this institution and in his own words, he escaped death three times in 1931 when a hurricane destroyed the school where he was a boarder, and much of Belize City.
In an interview in 2011 he related that after the storm first hit, he managed to flee the collapsed building where he was in and sought refuge behind a sea wall. During the lull as the eye of the hurricane passed, he and a few fellow students fled to the central area of Belize City and sought refuge in a wooden house. He managed to get out just before the Methodist Church collapsed on top of this house and clad only in his underclothes swam through Albert Street (down town Belize City), where family friends took him into a house and eventually returned him to his family.
Being inspired by the work of the Jesuits in Belize, he determined at age 16 to become a Jesuit priest.
He continued his education at the Jesuit Minor Seminary at St. Augustine, Missouri U.S.A., and thereafter at the Major Seminary in Guatemala City. The next and final chapter of his education was to be in Rome, but because of the war he was unable to travel there. His father's deteriorating health compelled him to seek work to help support his family. In Belize, a family friend found him a job as secretary and translator with Belize Mahogany and chicle magnate Robert Sidney Turton.
His studies at the Jesuit Seminaries exposed him to the teachings of Catholic social justice, in particular the encyclical Rerum Novarum.
Mr. Price entered politics with his first election in 1944 where he was pressed to enter the race for the Belize Town Board three days before the election by Mr. Fred Westby, through his employer at the time Robert Sidney Turton. He lost. He ran and won in 1947 with his election to the Belize City Town Board.
Price was at the forefront of Belizean nationalist sentiment against British rule in the economic depression of the post war years, brought to a crisis by the devaluation of the British Honduras dollar in 1949. He led the nationalist movement as a member of the Natives First Independent Group, which won four of the seven seats in the 1947 Belize municipal elections. Price won one seat and the other three seats were won by John Smith, Herbert Fuller and Karl Wade. Price was re-elected for five consecutive terms until 1965, serving as the Mayor of Belize City from 1958 to 1962.
The Group began an open forum in 1948 which held a meeting protesting the devaluation of the dollar in December 31 1949. This led to the formation of a People’s Committee, chaired by John Smith, with George Price as the secretary, and they called a meeting that very night at Battlefield Park.
In response the colonial government declared a state of emergency with curfew and martial law that lasted 137 days, but the support for the People’s Committee grew.
George price became the Secretary of the newly formed People’s United Party on September 29, 1950, which replaced the People’s Committee, with John Smith as the leader of the party, Leigh Richardson as Chairman, and Philip Goldson as assistant secretary.
The colonial government took a dim view of the PUP’s protests and the colonial governor dissolved the PUP City Council of 1950-53, when it chose not to hang a portrait of the King at City Hall, in protest against colonialism. Leigh Richardson and Philip Goldson were charged with sedition in June 1951, for which they were tried and sentenced to one year in prison. During that year, John Smith resigned from the leadership of the party on November 19, 151 and Leigh Richardson became the leader of the party.
Universal Adult Suffrage was introduced in 1954, and the first national elections under a two party system were held in April 28, 1954.
George Price was elected the new leader of the party at the national convention in September 1954 when Richardson and Goldson were expelled from the party and on the PUP’s sixth anniversary, the party published its first issue of the Belize Times on September 29, 1956.
Price led Belizeans in opposing a West Indies federation of the British colonies in the Caribbean in 1957 and with a campaign slogan of “No federation, - controlled immigration”, the PUP won nine seats on the executive council in the 1957 national elections.
His protests caused the British to arrest him also and charge him with sedition in 1958, but he was acquitted when his case came to trial.
Price became Belize’s First Minister in 1961 with the introduction of a new Constitution for British Honduras and with a campaign manifesto to build a new city, the PUP won all 18 seats on the Legislative Assembly in March of that year.
The Price-led PUP government lobbied for another constitutional conference, held in London in July 1963 and this led to the introduction of Self Government on January 1, 1964. Premier George Price headed the new a Cabinet which replaced the Executive Council, while the Governor remained as head of state as the Queen’s representative, responsible primarily for defense.
Price continued to move Belize towards independence after the PUP won 16 of the 18 seats in the House of Representatives in the 1965 General Elections and Belize sent its first delegation to the United Nations in 1967.
Price had also begun to realize his dream of a new capital for Belize, Belmopan where work had already begun in 1966, and the government moved to the new capital upon its completion in 1970.
Guatemala’s lobbying before international bodies blocked Belize’s path to independence for a time, but Price and the PUP ingrained the idea of a free and independent Belize in the nation’s psyche in June 1, 1973 by changing the country’s name from “British Honduras” to Belize, a change reflected in the nation’s currency, postage stamps and all official documents.
Price and the PUP won the 1979 General Elections with independence as the main item on its political agenda. Britain’s Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher supported the idea of Belize renouncing “British” status and Belize finally gained its independence from Britain on September 21, 1981, with Price as Belize’s first Prime Minister.
Price regrouped the PUP after their first defeat at the polls in the 1984 General Elections, and led the PUP again to victory in the 1989 General elections, campaigning on a platform of “Belizeans First”.
In 1982, Price became a member of the United Kingdom's Privy Council.
In October 1996 he announced his resignation as party leader and on November 10, 1996 was formally succeeded by Said Musa who had been Deputy Party leader since 1994. Price remained as leader emeritus of the party. Price became a senior minister of the new PUP government led by Said Musa when the PUP, campaigning on a platform of political reform and “Set Belize Free” of the Value Added Tax (VAT), won the August 1998 General Elections with 26 – 3 majority in the House of Representatives.
Honours and awards
In September 2000, Price became the first person to receive Belize's highest honour, the Order of National Hero, for the prominent role he played in leading his country to independence. He also received the Order of the Caribbean Community and similar honours in other Caribbean and Latin American countries including the Jose Marti Award – Cuba's Highest Award by President Fidel Castro.
George Cadle Price died at the Belize Healthcare Partners Hospital at 6.30 a.m on Monday 19 September 2011 after being hospitalised for nearly a week following emergency surgery. He was 92.
He is predeceased by his parents Mr. William Cadle Price and Mrs. Irene Cecelia Escalante Price, along with his brothers Mr. Samuel William Price and Doctor John Cecil Price and his sister Ms. Anna Cecilia Price.
Price never married and had no children. He is survived by seven sisters: Mrs. Lydia Mary Waight, Mrs. Jane Ellen Usher, Mrs. Alice Margaret Craig, Mrs. Josephine Delia Balderamos, Mrs. Irene Elizabeth Canton, Ms. Katharine Louise Price, and Ms. Judy Sybil Price along with a host of nieces and nephews and other extended family.
George Price was buried at Lord’s Ridge Cemetery in Belize City following an official state funeral at the Independence Plaza in Belmopan on Monday morning 26 September 2011.
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