“They Call Me Teacher”: Biography of Sir Howard Cooke

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“They Call me Teacher” is the aptly titled biography of the Most Honourable Sir Howard Felix Hanlan Cooke, ON, GCMG, GCVO, CD, Jamaica’s fourth, native-born Governor General.

While most Jamaican’s will remember Sir Howard as being the Queen’s representative, Sir Howard was, at his core, an educator.

Sir Howard was born in Goodwill, St. James, on November 13, 1915 to David Brown Cooke and Mary Jane Minto. He was educated at elementary and private schools, Mico College and London University.



For 23 years he served as a teacher, starting at Mico College and Practising School. He later served as headmaster at Belle Castle All-Age School, Port Antonio Upper School and Montego Bay Boys’ School, having a personal love for bringing education to children in rural areas.

He was also a member and former president of the Jamaica Union of Teachers.

During the course of his career, he served in the insurance industry in the following positions: Senior Inspector and Branch Manager, Standard Life Insurance Company; Unit Manager, Jamaica Mutual Life; Branch Manager; American Life Insurance Company (ALICO).


JIS Radio Feature: The Life of Sir Howard Cooke


Political Life

Sir Howard Cooke entered politics in 1938 as one of the founding members of the People’s National Party. He has been chairman and also a member of the Executive and National Executive of the Party.

In 1958 he was elected to the West Indies Federal Parliament, as the representative of St. James.

He entered the Jamaican Parliament in 1962 and served as Senator until 1967. He served as a member of the House of Representatives between 1967 and 1980, and was a Minister of Government between 1972 and 1980. As Minister, he held, at different times, the portfolios of:

  • Pension and Social Security
  • Education
  • Labour and Public Service

He was president of the Senate from 1989 to 1991 and served on the Executive of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association.



Sir Howard served as group scoutmaster and secretary for the St. Andrew Boys’ Scout Association. He captained the County of Cornwall cricket team, and, at various times was a member of the Mico College, YMCA, Portland and St. James football teams.

He assisted in the establishment of community centres in east Portland and various community organisations in his home parish St. James.

His interests extend to Jamaican culture and for many years, he was a member of the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC), and was secretary and local chairman of the St. James Cultural Commission. He also judged in JCDC “Festival” competitions.

He is currently a senior elder and lay pastor in the United Church of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands, and is a lay pastor and past chairman of the Cornwall Council of Churches. He is a member of the ancient Free and Accepted Order of Masons.


Family Life

On July 22, 1939, he married Ivy Sylvia Lucille Tai. This union produced two sons, the Honourable Justice Howard Fitz-Arthur Cooke, Puisine Judge, and Richard Washington McDermott Cooke, Hotelier; and one daughter, Miss Audrey Faith Cooke, who is now a guidance counsellor in Canada.




1994 – Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order (GCVO) – conferred on him by her majesty Queen Elizabeth

1991 – Order of the Nation (ON)

1991 – Knight Grand Cross of the Most Distinguished Order of St. Michael and St. George (GCMG), conferred on him by her Majesty Queen Elizabeth

1980 – Special Plaque for Distinguished Service from the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association

1978- Commander of Distinction

He was installed as Governor-General of Jamaica at King’s House on Thursday, August 1, 1991.


Information courtesy of http://kingshouse.gov.jm/

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