Sir Arlington passesFormer House speaker succumbs to illness; fondly remembered by former PMs
Sir Arlington Butler, former speaker of the House of Assembly, “sporting giant” and “nation builder”, died in hospital Thursday night.
He was 79.
Sir Arlington had been in Princess Margaret Hospital for more than a week suffering from complications of a long illness.
Sir Arlington, a former Cabinet minister in the first Ingraham administration, was yesterday remembered for his far-reaching contributions.
“Sir Arlington Butler served The Bahamas with great distinction,” Free National Movement Chairman Carl Culmer said in a statement.
“He was indeed a nation builder, above and beyond the call of duty in all that he accomplished.
“Sir Arlington’s contribution to building the modern Bahamas is extensive: He was a former schoolteacher who brought his talents to politics.
“He became the speaker of The House of Assembly (1972-1977) notably, having the honor of serving as the first speaker in an independent Bahamas.
“Sir Arlington later served as a member of Parliament for the Salem Constituency in the historic 1992 election.”
Culmer noted that Sir Arlington went on to become the Bahamas Ambassador to the United States of America and later served as the president of the Bahamas Olympic Association.
Sir Arlington, who was born in Nassau on January 2, 1938, was educated at the Bahamas Teachers College, the University of Nottingham, and the Longborough Training College.
Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Leader Philip Brave Davis also reacted to Sir Arlington’s death yesterday. Davis described his friend as an “extraordinary Bahamian”.
“Sir Arlington was an ardent proponent of and participant in this country’s progressive movement that ushered in majority rule, independence and the modern Bahamas,” Davis said. “We thank him for his national service.
“The PLP salutes his lifelong contribution to our country’s national development, particularly in the areas of education, diplomacy, youth and sports development.”
Davis said Sir Arlington, “significantly impacted The Bahamas’ envied position on the international stage as a sports power.
“With his passing, an important era in sports development has come to an end. He will be sorely missed.”
Sir Arlington’s son, Arlington Gibao Butler, said his dad’s contributions will be remembered.
“He had a good run and he made a monumental contribution, not just to The Bahamas, but to the world at large,” he said.
Former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham said it was Sir Arlington who helped him and former Prime Minister Perry Christie get their firm off the ground.
“I got to meet Arlington when I was very young,” he said. “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 though he and Sir Arlington were not as close as they once were, he described Sir Arlington as a fighter.
“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.
“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 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 fell out with me over the years; I never harbored any ill will toward him,” he added.
“May he rest in peace.”
Christie yesterday remembered Sir Arlington fondly.
“Sir Arlington Butler was one of those heroes of our country who has served the country magnificently, he said.
Christie described Sir Arlington as a nation builder.
He made Sir Arlington made the “ultimate sacrifice” when he gave up a his promising career in education to become a politician.
He said Sir Arlington served with distinction.
“He had the tremendous honor of being the first [Bahamian] speaker (of the House of Assembly). He had the stature… therefore he brought a lot of dignity to that position. He served well. But that also led to a major confrontation in the PLP.”
Christie noted that Sir Arlington left the party, and eventually joined the Free a National Movement. Despite their political differences, Christie said they remained friends.
“All through his political differences with the PLP, he still was very, very connected to people, including those of us who are in the PLP. He never allowed his politics to make him a rabid politician, one who just opposed for opposing sake. And I always remember that I maintained my relationship with him throughout.”
He said the nation owes Sir Arlington a debt of gratitude.
In 1996, Sir Arlington was knighted by Queen Elizabeth, and received many awards for his service to national development.
In his tribute to Sir Arlington yesterday, former Governor General Sir Arthur Foulkes described him as a “fierce defender” of independence.
“Sir Arlington was, first of all, a gentleman of the first order and a man of many interests who somehow found the time to pursue them with passion,” Sir Arthur said in a statement. “Among these were his profession, the law, the development of sports and, of course, politics.
“It was in the political arena that I got to know him best. The peak of his political career was when he served as speaker of our ancient House of Assembly. Sir Arlington brought great dignity to that office, which is among the highest in the land, and I believe history will record him as being one of the great Bahamian speakers.”
Sir Arlington is survived by his wife, Hazel Butler; his children, Arvin, Arlington Gibao, Kristal Lafleur and Kara Butler-Wight, and other relatives.