It is with profound sadness that I have learned of the death of one of Jamaica’s most illustrious sons and one of our gentlest souls, Sir Howard Cooke. It is impossible to overemphasize his contribution to this nation, which he served with utmost distinction, passion and selflessness.
Ever since he became involved in public life in that pivotal year of 1938, Sir Howard’s heart and mind have never wavered in commitment to the upliftment of his people.
An unflinching regionalist, it was fitting that he was elected to the West Indies Federal Parliament in 1958. When Jamaica’s first independent Parliament was convened in 1962, Sir Howard was one of its distinguished members, serving as Senator until 1967.
In that year he became a member of the House of Representatives. Between 1972 and 1980 he served as Minister of the portfolios of Pension and Social Security, Education and Labour and the Public Service. As Governor-General between 1991 and 2006, he served with distinction and grace.
Known as Teacher, he taught by precept and example indelible lessons of love, compassion, tolerance and fairness. Having spent 23 years in the classroom, beginning at his beloved Mico College and Practising School, he had a natural empathy and caring spirit. None could fail to be moved by his warmth, his broad, endearing smile and his captivating generosity of spirit. He embraced all and was a model of inclusiveness and non-partisanship.
A leading member of the inter-faith community, Sir Howard for many years hosted regular meetings of various religious groups, drawing on all the great religious traditions in a spirit of oneness. His passing has left a deep void in our national life. We will always remember Sir Howard as a true patriot and an unfailing believer in the goodness and greatness of the Jamaican people. His legacy is rich and enduring and his memory will live on in our hearts.
On behalf of the people of Jamaica, I offer my deepest condolences to his family.