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Sir Arlington Butler dies at 79

Sir Arlington Butler, former speaker of the House of Assembly and former Bahamas ambassador to the United States, died in hospital last night.

He was 79.

Sir Arlington had been in Princess Margaret Hospital for more than a week. He had a long illness.

“He had a good run and he made a monumental contribution, not just to The Bahamas, but to the world at large,” said his son, Arlington Gibao Bulter, this morning.

Sir Arlington, who was born in Nassau on January 2, 1938, was a statesman who was educated at the Bahamas Teachers College, the University of Nottingham, and the Longborough Training College.

He had a long and distinguished service in government and politics. He was speaker of the House from October 18, 1972 to October 20, 1977.

Sir Arlington, who was a lawyer by profession and previously an educator, served as a minister in the Cabinet of Hubert Ingraham.

“Arlington was a fighter; he was a warrior. He quit his job as a teacher in 1966 to run for the House of Assembly when the PLP was looking for good, quality candidates and he was among those who came forward,” Ingraham said this morning.

“He lost in 1967 but he won the election in 1968 and became chairman of the Gaming Board, and thereafter got reelected in 1972 and he fell out with the party in 1977, or the party (PLP) fell out with him, and they went their separate ways.

“In 1977, he ran as an independent in Culmersville constituency against the PLP and he lost; David Knowles won the seat. I was chairman of the PLP at the time.”

Ingraham added: “He and I were on opposite sides, and so we ended up on the same side when I joined the FNM. He became an FNM candidate in 1982 for West End and Bimini, and in 1987 for Fort Charlotte; he lost on both occasions.

“In 1992, he became our candidate for the constituency of Salem and he won and he became my minister of public safety, and I transferred him subsequently to the Ministry of Public Works.

“He did not run again in the 1997 election because he was appointed to be our ambassador to the United States of America and that’s when he got knighted by the Queen.”

The former prime minister also said, “I got to meet Arlington when I was very young. He assisted me and Perry Christie when we established our law firm; he loaned us the first $5,000 or $10,000 to get set up.”

Ingraham said that when he got married in 1971, Sir Arlington gave a toast at the wedding.

“He fell out with me over the years; I never harbored any ill will toward him,” he added.

“May he rest in peace.”

Sir Arlington had a respected voice as a commentator over many years on national issues.

He was involved in the administration of sports in The Bahamas for more than 50 years and was a past president of the Bahamas Olympic Association (which became the Bahamas Olympic Committee).

In 1996, he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth, and received many awards for his service to national development.

When Sir Arlington was honored at Government House in 2013, then Governor General Sir Arthur Foulkes said, “When Arlington Butler took over the reins of the BOA, The Bahamas had to its credit one gold medal, won in sailing by Sir Durward Knowles and Cecil Cooke in the 1964 Tokyo Games and a bronze medal, also in sailing by Sir Durward and Sloan Farrington in 1956.

“When Sir Arli stepped down in 2008, The Bahamas had golden girls, silver knights and bronze warriors in track and field. The beachhead established by Sir Durward had been wonderfully expanded and secured.”

Sir Arlington is survived by his wife, Hazel Butler; his children, Arvin, Arlington Gibao, Kristal Lafleur and Kara Butler-Wight, and other relatives.

Candia Dames

Candia Dames is the managing editor for the Nassau Guardian.

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