By FELICITY DARVILLE
IMET William “Doug” Douglass through my father, Allan Ingraham. Daddy was very excited to tell me how Doug was building a recreational court for the kids in a settlement near Doug’s home in South Eleuthera back in 2017. It was a near $200,000 investment in a basketball/volleyball court and rock climbing facility at the Wemyss Bight Primary School. Later on, Doug had delivered hundreds of pairs of Converse sneakers to kids all throughout the island so they could more actively participate in sporting events. Since then, he has sponsored basketball clinics for the community’s kids.
When speaking to the children, he tells them to never give up on their dreams, no matter how lofty, because great people have come out of Eleuthera. Among them, gold medal Olympian Chris “Fireman” Brown. Brown hails from Wemyss Bight and Doug is very close with his family, especially his mother, Nola Brown who has worked with Doug for many, many years.
“The Bahamas has been an important part of my life since 1962, and I have a deep respect and love for the Bahamian people and their culture,” Doug said.
“My heart and soul are the sand and beautiful waters of these islands and its residents. As an accomplished sailor, I have navigated the waters both fishing and sailing throughout the Bahamas and I have a deep connection to the country.”
“My favourite memory as a child in The Bahamas is going fishing with my grandparents and their friends. I remember bringing my friends from the United States to Eleuthera and showing them the communities and settlements that I was a part of. There was a time when I was the limbo king of South Eleuthera! Nobody could beat me at limbo in Governor’s Harbour… and there are people who can attest to that!”
Doug’s history began here visiting his grandparents and witnessing their investment in Eleuthera. In 1960, Juan T Trippe and his wife Betty (née Stettinius) purchased vast tracks of land in South Eleuthera from Arthur Vining Davis in the name of South Eleuthera Properties, Ltd.
The early history of the development was very promising and there was a period of time that Cotton Bay Club and the surrounding resorts were thriving and bringing prosperity to an undeveloped island.
Large investments were made in the island’s infrastructure, including an airport with a runway more than the 7,000 feet in length, and a power plant providing the first electricity and running water to the island. There were two resorts functioning under his umbrella and Trippe built the Cotton Bay Club with its Robert Trent Jones championship golf course, considered for many years to be the best golf course in all of the Caribbean. As the founder of Pan American Airways, Trippe brought proper airlift to Nassau and Rock Sound – eventually a Boeing 707 jet provided regular service between New York City’s JFK airport and Miami to both Nassau and Rock Sound, Eleuthera. He built a proper market for food supplies for the residents of South Eleuthera. He also built the Preston Albury High School for the community as well as a medical clinic.
“Juan Trippe’s legacy here remains legendary,” Doug proudly says of his grandfather.
“I have been visiting our house in Cotton Bay, Rock Sound, Eleuthera, continuously for the past 57 years. Following in the footsteps of my grandparents, I too have been giving back to the people of the Bahamas. I have supported those going to schools abroad, and I have contributed a number of charities serving the residents of Eleuthera. In particular, I have supported the incredibly successful Island School in Eleuthera. Founded by Chris Maxey, a former Navy Seal, The Island School focuses on sustainable development. In twenty-five plus years, the school has made a significant impact on its students who come from the United States and locally.”
“When Chris first came to the Bahamas in 1981, he was at Yale and I was at Vanderbilt (university). I took Chris and his family into the settlements and showed what it was like to be part of the community, as I was. That is a part of what hooked Chris and his family to first buy a home in Eleuthera, and then eventually to come back and create the Island School, which the Bahamas benefits from today.”
Doug wants his fellow Americans to know that despite the fact that Grand Bahama and Abaco were devastated by Hurricane Dorian, the rest of The Bahamas, including Eleuthera, is still open for business.
Shortly after the passage of the hurricane, I produced a column which outlined some of the history between The Bahamas and America and how some 30,000 Bahamians worked in several states on “The Contract” during a 23-year period. I was elated to see several days later, an appeal from Doug for Bahamians to receive US Temporary Work Permits in order to recover from the hurricane. Florida Senators Rick Scott and Marco Rubio had already made an appeal for the same. These appeals touched my heart because I feel that if given the chance, Bahamians would continue to make valuable contributions to the US as many are doing today. Among them, my recent interviewee Marilyn Rose, who was named one of Houstons’ top 30 Women in Business.
“The US administration should consider issuing anywhere from 5,000 to 10,000 temporary work visas to displaced Bahamian workers,” Doug suggested in an open letter delivered to Bahamian and US media outlets.
“Bahamians don’t want to emigrate to the US, nor are they at risk of overstaying their welcome. Bahamians want to live in The Bahamas, full stop. In tandem with the Bahamian government, the US Border Patrol should consider expediting a process wherein temporary Visa recipients could work in the US on a short-term basis, at no cost to state and federal budgets, immigration officials or American taxpayers. With a scarcity of employees in the hospitality and service industries, the benefits of offering Temporary Work Visas to displaced Bahamian workers would be a win-win for both US businesses and Bahamian employees.”
Doug goes on to note that American companies have been quick to offer help to The Bahamas in the aftermath of the disaster.
“Power plants, hotels, and housing and communications infrastructures are among the areas most in need of substantial American capital investments—all of which offer extraordinary opportunities for a wide variety of US businesses,” he added.
Doug warned: “If the U.S. doesn’t step in, the Chinese will—and have already. In Dorian’s wake, Bahamian and Chinese officials committed to continuing their bilaterial relationship. The goal, according to one source, being to ‘get a better distribution of our population throughout the archipelago’. For years, both the State Department and the Department of Defence have been concerned about an Asian presence so close to the United States—and unless they take proactive steps to counteract this incursion, they are right to be worried.”
“In short, the US could surpass its already-extraordinary efforts by offering short-term work opportunities to afflicted Bahamians, thereby providing much-needed breathing room to the area as it struggles to rebuild. In turn, US companies would benefit from welcoming a temporary, limited influx of Bahamian workers, while continuing to invest more aggressively in The Bahamas, with the promise of substantial long-term returns. Both would go a long way toward discouraging the Chinese government from encroaching more than they have already on a region situated just over 40 miles off the US coast—a longtime concern and red flag for US government officials.”
The Bahamas, spread over nearly 180,000 square miles, is strategically vital to the US, he notes. In the 1980s in particular, drug interdiction and smuggling were serious issues, and human trafficking has been an ongoing concern. Strategically, the Bahamas is important as the US Navy has maintained US Submarine testing facilities here since at least the 1960s.
As a man with an island upbringing should, Doug loves the ocean. A world class international sailor, Doug owns the Goombay Smash racing programme, which includes a racing fleet of three boats, each enjoying their own international success over the past eight years (goombaysmash.com). His love for Bahamians led him to get on the ground in Abaco after the hurricane. He assisted in evacuating 65 residents in Marsh Harbour, and he hosted seven families in his home for a period after the tragedy.
He is a self-made successful businessman who co-founded K2 Advisors in 1994. He retired four years ago after selling the firm to Franklin Templeton in 2012. K2 Advisors is one of the largest fund of Hedge Funds in the world with approximately $12 billion under management in the recent past.
“As an American first the country I love, there is a long rich relationship between both The Bahamas and The United States of America,” Doug said.
“I want both to thrive and thus my passion.”