SIR Arlington Butler, the first Speaker of the House of Assembly in an independent Bahamas, died Thursday night.
Sir Arlington, pictured, was admitted to Princess Margaret Hospital a little over a week ago after battling a long illness. He was 79.
Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis released a statement on his death, saying Sir Arlington gave a “lifetime of public service” to the Bahamas.
“He counts among those Bahamian patriots who offered a tremendous measure of his devotion to the Bahamas,” Dr Minnis said.
“Demonstrating great courage, he left the teaching profession to enter frontline politics, helping to usher in racial and social equality as a part of the movement for majority rule.”
Sir Arlington was first elected to the House of Assembly in 1968. In 1972, a year before independence, he was elected speaker of the House of Assembly.
Dr Minnis said Sir Arlington had considerable knowledge of parliamentary procedure and was “a fierce defender of the authority and independence” of the Speaker of the House.
“He broke with the leadership of his then political home. He remained in frontline politics, unsuccessfully contesting seats in the 1977, 1982 and 1987 general elections. Undaunted and with courage he became a part of the wave of change in the 1992 general election, winning a seat back in the House of Assembly as a candidate of the Free National Movement.
“Sir Arlington contributed to national life as a politician, diplomat, attorney, sports enthusiast and member of the Olympic movement. He served for many years as president of the Bahamas Olympic Committee. He was an avid member of the Lunch Bunch, which he diligently attended. It was always a pleasure when I attended the Lunch Bunch to listen to Sir Arlington expound on a matter with his typically expansive and exuberant spirit.
“On my own behalf, and that of my wife Patricia, I offer condolences to Hazel, Lady Butler, and to Sir Arlington’s children: Arvin, Arlington Gibao, Kristal Lafleur and Kara Butler-Wright, as well as to his extended family and friends. The Bahamas cherishes with tremendous gratitude the life and contributions of Sir Arlington Butler,” Dr Minnis said.
Official Opposition Leader Phillip ‘Brave’ Davis described Sir Arlington as “a gallant and courageous political warrior.”
“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,” he said in a statement.
“We thank him for his national service. A gallant and courageous political warrior with the battle scars as proof, Sir Arlie as he was affectionately called by friend and foe alike, always stood for what was right, accepting the consequences of his stance with dignity and grace like any good soldier.
“In all his battles, trials and tribulation,” Mr Davis continued, “Sir Arlie never wavered in his commitment to advancing the common good.
“The PLP salutes his lifelong contribution to our country’s national development, particularly in the areas of education, diplomacy, youth and sports development. Sir Arlington’s long and distinguished service as the president of the Bahamas Olympic Committee has 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,” Mr Davis said.
Former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham said Sir Arlington helped him establish his law firm with former Prime Minister Perry Christie.
“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.”
He added: “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.
“He lost in 1967 but he won the election in 1968 and became chairman of the Gaming Board, and thereafter got re-elected 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.”
Mr Ingraham said the two were not as close as they once were.
“He fell out with me over the years; I never harboured any ill will toward him,” he added.
Sir Arlington was born on January, 2 1938 in Nassau. He was educated at the Bahamas Teachers College, the University of Nottingham, and the Longborough Training College.
Prior to entering politics, Sir Arlington was assistant headmaster Government High School and Prince William High School.
He became a law clerk, qualified as a lawyer and was called to the Bahamas Bar in 1974.
His career as a statesman included posts as minister of several government ministries including Minister of Public Safety and Transport from 1992 to 1995 and Minister of Public Works in 1995 in the Free National Movement (FNM) under the administration of former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham.
Sir Arlington served as Speaker of the House of Assembly from October 18, 1972 to October 20, 1977. He was also chairman of the Broadcasting Corporation of the Bahamas, the Gaming Board and the Hotel Licencing Authority.
He also served as the Bahamas ambassador to the United States.
In 1996, he was knighted by Her Majesty the Queen as Commander of the Order of St Micheal’s at St George (KCMG).
Sir Arlington spent over 50 years in the service and administration of sports in the Bahamas. He served as president of the Bahamas Olympic Committee for almost 40 years.
Sir Arlington’s first wife, the late Lady Shelia Butler, died in 2013 following a long illness.
He is survived by his wife, Hazel Butler; his children, Arvin, Arlington Gibao, Kristal Lafleur and Kara Butler-Wight, and other relatives.