Sir William Alexander Clarke Bustamante, a Jamaican politician and labour leader who became the first prime minister of Jamaica was born William Alexander Clarke on the 24th of February 1884 in Hanover he later changed his name by deed poll to Alexander Bustamante, and died on the 6th of August 1977.
His father was a white Irish planter named Robert Constantine, Clarke and his mother a black Jamaican worker named Mary Clarke (Nee Wilson). He was educated at Cacoon and Dalmalley schools and supplemented his learning with his own private studies. He was an intelligent child but family funds did not permit him to undertake much formal education.
He is also one of Jamaica’s National Heroes. In 1940, he became a champion of the working classes and campaigned for workers rights. he was imprisoned on charges of subversive activities. The widespread anti-colonial activism finally resulted in Parliament’s granting universal suffrage in 1944 to Jamaica. Released from prison in 1943, Bustamante founded the Jamaica Labour Party the same year.
Previously he had belonged to the People’s National Party (founded in 1938 by his cousin Norman Manley). Bustamante’s party won 22 of 32 seats in the first House of Representatives elected by universal suffrage. After Jamaica was granted independence in 1962, Bustamante served as the first Prime Minister until 1967. In 1965 he withdrew from active participation in public life, and the true power was held by his deputy, Donald Sangster.
Bustamante started to travel the world, something he did for the next thirty years. Over time, he moved from place to place Panama, Cuba, the United States and Jamaica trying his hand at a variety of occupations including transportation, hospital attendant, security (police) work, beekeeping and dairy farming. In 1910, Bustamante returned to Jamaica from Panama with Mildred Blanck, a widow.
He married her in December 1910 and headed back to Panama immediately, then went on to Cuba around 1920. He returned to Jamaica briefly, and also lives in the United States for some time, and returned to Jamaica for the final time in 1934. He started writing letters to the Daily Gleaner – Jamaica’s sole daily newspaper at the time. In the letters, he defended the rights of the unemployed to carry out planned demonstrations and also the right of self-expression in 1935. He also saw the need to organize the labour movement in a legal way, and thus formed the Bustamante Industrial Trades Union in May 1938.
In 1943, Bustamante formally launched the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), which some say was merely a political label for his Bustamante Industrial Trades Union. A party which is one of the two leading parties in Jamaica, he retired from active politics in 1967. During Mr. Norman Manley reign as Chief Minister of Jamaica, Sir Alexander Bustamante was overseeing the Federation of the West Indies.
The idea of the Federation of the West Indies was to form a political union that would help these islands to gain their independence from Britain. Sir Alexander Bustamante was appointed “Order of National Hero.” Sir Alexander Bustamante and Mr. Norman Manley were the only two living people to receive this distinguish award.
In addition, Sir Bustamante has received countless awards from several countries including a life-size statue at South Parade where he held several union rallies and a portrait of his face is on Jamaica’s one dollar. The Children Hospital was renamed the Bustamante Hospital for Children. His 30 foot monument was completed in 1979 in the Heroes Park to honour Sir Alexander Bustamante as one of Jamaica’s National Heroes.