Sir Darnley Alexander (1920-1989)
Sir Darnley Alexander
Born: 28th January, 1920, in St. Lucia
Died: 10th February, 1989 in Paris, France
Sir Darnley Alexander Is Yet to be Honoured at Home!
Since the government decided to honour Derek Walcott, there has been much discussion as to whether we are serious about honouring our heroes. It seems those we honour must first be honoured throughout Africa for his judicial and legal service to Nigeria, at home Sir Darnley remains a largely unsung hero. He never took Nigerian nationality. One year after his death, his contributions have not been officially recognised in St. Lucia. The following article by Monsignor Patrick Anthony, written a year ago for the ‘Catholic Chronicle,’ will help inform those who know very little about this great son of the soil.
Sir Darnley Arthur Raymond Alexander, a distinguished Saint Lucian and former Chief Justice of Nigeria, died in Paris on Friday 10th February 1989, at the age of 69. He had been rushed from Nigeria to an American hospital in Paris for treatment after a sudden illness. The government of Nigeria gave him a state funeral. The Supreme Court of Nigeria held a special valedictory court session in his honour presided over by the Chief Justice in the presence of all the supreme court justices, judges from the courts of appeal and justices of Lagos and lkeja high courts.
Some St. Lucians may wonder who is this legal luminary whom the Chief Justice of Nigeria described as presiding over many cases “with simplicity, impartiality and great integrity,” and whose career the Attorney General of Nigeria said “was characterized by high standard and efficiency. “Sir Darnley may not be well-known to the present generation of St Lucians, but among the heroes of this land his name must feature with the likes of Arthur Lewis and Derek Walcott. Although in his tribute the president of the Nigeria Bar Association, Mr. Aloa Aka Bashorun, called him “a more true and dedicated Nigerian than most Nigerians because of his firm belief that the country belongs to all,” yet, Sir Darnley was a true St. Lucian, a son of the soil.
His parents were Lucy and Pamphile Alexander of Soufriere, and he was born there on January 28th, 1920. George Alexander who served in the civil service for donkey years, is his brother. Mrs. Majorie Thomas is his sister. Mr. Leton Thomas, principal of the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College, is his brother-in-law. His other sister, Mrs. Giovana Clarke, now resides in Canada. His Guyanese-born wife, Mildred (nee King) died in Nigeria a few years ago. His son Michael “Zex” Alexander (now married to Madrina Husbands) is a surgeon in Canada and Margaret Ann, his daughter (now Margaret Ann Nelson-Cole) is a sociologist in England. We knew the children. We went to school with them. Ask “Fonso” (now Fr. Leonard Alphonso), Mc Donald Dixon or Suzie D’Auvergne. You may even ask “Boo” Hinkson about legion concerts at St. Joseph’s Convent and Michael Alexander’s role in the formation of the “Tru Tones.” Through the children we met him on his frequent visits home. Despite his brilliance and achievements, he was always a simple, warm and jovial person to us.
From all reports, Sir Darnley lived a rich, full, humane and christian life. Churks Adolphy of the Nigeria Punch (Feb 33, 1989) described him as a highly disciplined and cultivated personality” whose name “rang a bell all over Nigeria because of the genuine interest he shared in several local affairs like the Red Cross Movement, social clubs and general christian life particularly to his parish. “A columnist in the National Concord of Nigeria (Feb. 23, 1989) in an allusion to Alexander the Great, described Sir Darnley as “the greatest Alexander in Nigerian history.”
The foundations of that illustrious life were laid in the cradle of the Alexander family, a deeply christian family of sound moral values. In the minds and hearts of all their children were inculcated the virtues of hard work, discipline and responsibility. These values would be reflected later in Darnley’s impeccable record Qf punctuality and regularity as a student at St. Mary’s College. Young Darnley was bright. He won a Scholarship to St. Mary’s College where he distinguished himself not only academically (placing 1st in every term exam throughout his college career) but also in every, department of sports: swimming, football, cricket, athletics. Darnley taught briefly at St. Mary’s College, won the Island Scholarship in 1938 and went to study law at the University of London. He was called to the bar at Middle Temple in 1942.
As a young lawyer he worked in the legal services of Jamaica from 1944-1957, but in 1957 migrated to Nigeria where he joined the Ministry of Justice of the Western Region. In 1960 he became Permanent Secretary and then Solicitor General of the Western Region. In 1963 he was knighted (CBE) by her Majesty Queen Elizabeth. From 1964-69 he was a judge of the Lagos High Court, became Chief Justice of the South Eastern State in 1969 and the third Chief Justice of the Nigerian Federation In 1975. Upon his retirement in 1979 he was appointed Chairman of Nigeria’s Law Reform Commission, a position he held until 1988. On February 4th, 1989, six days before his death, he received an honorary Doctor of Laws (LL.D) from the University of Maiduguri.
Like many other outstanding human beings, Sir Darnley was able to make a landmark contribution as a St. Lucian, even when his country was not ready for him. He tried to return home once to serve, but suitable arrangements could not be made. Although he spent most of his life far from these shores, Saint Lucia was still ‘home’ for him. It was this home to which he returned time and time again to visit his children, his relatives and friends. And it was to this home he had planned to retire finally in the not too distant future, were it not for his untimely death. It is this writer’s sincerest hope that this great St. Lucian will truly find a lasting home in the annals of his people’s history.