Sir John Compton
Prime Minister of Saint Lucia
22 February 1979 – 2 July 1979
Monarch Elizabeth II
Preceded by Office created
Succeeded by Allan Louisy
3 May 1982 – 2 April 1996
Preceded by Michael Pilgrim
Succeeded by Vaughan Lewis
11 December 2006 – 7 September 2007
Preceded by Kenny Anthony
Succeeded by Stephenson King
Premier of Saint Lucia
1 March 1967 – 22 February 1979
Preceded by Office established
Succeeded by Office abolished
Born 29 April 1925
St Vincent colonial flag.png Canouan, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
Died 7 September 2007 (aged 82)
Saint Lucia Tapion Hospital, Castries, Saint Lucia
Political party United Workers Party
Spouse(s) Lady Barbara Janice Compton nee Clarke
Sir John George Melvin Compton, KBE, PC (29 April 1925 – 7 September 2007) was a Saint Lucian politician who served as the Prime Minister of Saint Lucia on three occasions: briefly in 1979, again from 1982 to 1996, and from 2006 until his death in 2007. Compton, who previously led Saint Lucia under British rule from 1964 to 1979, was the country's first leader when it became independent in February 1979. He led the conservative United Workers Party (UWP) from 1964 until 1996, and again from 2005 to 2007.
1 Early life and beginnings of political career
2 Administration under British rule, 1964–1979
3 As Prime Minister and in opposition, 1979–1996
4 Return to politics
5 Election history
6 Illness and death
7 Personal life and family
Early life and beginnings of political career
Compton was born in 1925 in Canouan, St. Vincent and the Grenadines. In September 1939, he was taken to Saint Lucia. While studying law and economics, Compton attended the University College of Wales from 1948 to 1949 and the London School of Economics from 1949 to 1951; he was called to the Bar on 7 August 1951. His political career began in 1954, when he ran as an independent for the seat from Micoud/Dennery in Saint Lucia and was elected. He was appointed to the Executive Council and, under the Committee System then used, became Member for Social Affairs until the end of the Committee System in 1956. In the latter year, he joined the Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP). He notably participated in a sugar workers' strike in 1957, and was fined for obstructing roads. Re-elected in 1957, he became Minister for Trade and Production in 1958, and also became deputy leader of the SLP, under George Charles. In 1960 he was named Minister of Trade and Industry under Charles, who became Chief Minister. Compton was again re-elected in 1961, but chose not to join the Executive Council; objecting to the choice of ministers, he quit the SLP and along with his supporters he formed a new party, the National Labour Movement, in the same year.
In 1964, together with another opposition party, the People's Progressive Party, he and the National Labour Movement formed a new party, the United Workers' Party (UWP). This new party won the election held in June 1964, and Compton became Chief Minister.
Administration under British rule, 1964–1979
In office, Compton worked for Saint Lucia's independence from British rule. When Saint Lucia became an Associated State of the United Kingdom, a move closer to independence that placed the Saint Lucian government fully in charge of the island's internal affairs, on 1 March 1967, Compton became St. Lucia's first and only Premier. At the conference leading to this, from April to May 1966, Compton sharply criticized the British government for excluding certain issues, and accused it of favoring "second-class citizenship for people of another color". In 1968, he married Barbara Janice Clarke, with whom he would have five children.
Following the UWP's victory in the 1974 election, Compton pushed for negotiations leading to independence, which was achieved on 22 February 1979; Compton became the newly independent nation's first Prime Minister.
As Prime Minister and in opposition, 1979–1996
A few months after independence, the UWP was defeated in an election by the SLP, and Compton became Leader of the Opposition. The SLP government collapsed in January 1982, and the UWP won the subsequent election in May 1982; Compton became Prime Minister again. He remained in office until he retired in 1996; he was replaced by his chosen successor, Vaughan Lewis. Compton became a legal consultant.
In office, Compton's policies were conservative, pro-Western and anti-communist. He also worked for increased regional integration, and upon leaving office in 1996 he mentioned it as a disappointment that the region's population remained a "divided people scattered over the Caribbean Sea".
Return to politics
On 13 March 2005, the UWP elected Compton, then 80 years old, as its leader again at a party convention in Soufriere; he received 260 votes against 135 for Vaughan Lewis. In spite of being labeled a geriatric by the governing St Lucia Labour Party, Compton led the UWP to a surprising victory on 11 December 2006; he was elected to the seat from Micoud North, winning an easy victory over SLP candidate Silas Wilson. He was sworn in as Prime Minister on 15 December. His cabinet was sworn in on 19 December; with Compton as Prime Minister and Finance Minister.
As Compton prepared for and campaigned for the 2006 poll, he faced doubts about how capable he was of holding office, considering his advanced age. Compton, however, gave the appearance of being fit and ready for leadership. He was quoted as saying that he was not preparing to run in the Olympics but for leadership of the nation.
John Compton dug his political roots in the eastern sugar belt in 1954 and thanks to his involvement in the 1957 sugar strike, they remained planted there throughout a full half century.
His immense popularity there was sustained through three generations so much so that when he returned to the fray for the very last time in the elections of 2006, after being 10 years and two elections away, he was bluntly told by supporters that he need not organize any major campaign. The result: Compton easily won the contest by more than 1,000 votes to become the representative of Micoud North for the very first time.
Compton as an Independent won his debut election contest in 1954 carrying away 51 percent of the total votes. But after the 1957 strike his personal popularity soared and in successive elections his share of the votes was often in excess of 90 percent.
In nearby Dennery, he was able to call the shots there as well as to who should run that constituency. But all that changed in 1979 when Compton’s stranglehold on the eastern felt began to flag. In that year,
Illness and death
On 1 May 2007, Compton was hospitalized in New York City after he suffered a series of strokes which left him physically impaired. He fell ill while visiting a doctor for a normal checkup.
On 16 May, Leonard Montoute, who serves as St. Lucia's Sports Minister and deputy leader of the United Workers Party, said that Compton was unable to stand or walk on his own and that the cabinet would select a new Prime Minister to lead the island nation.
Compton returned to Saint Lucia on 19 May. He temporarily resumed power in early June to oversee a cabinet reshuffle, in which he remained Prime Minister but gave up the finance portfolio to Acting Prime Minister Stephenson King. King said on 8 June that Compton's condition was improving. On 11 July, he attended a meeting with several cabinet ministers, the first time he had done so since the strokes.
In late July, it was announced that Compton would resign by the end of 2007. On 26 August, Compton was admitted to the Tapion Hospital in Castries because he was having trouble breathing due to pneumonia. While there, it was learned that he had suffered another stroke while recovering from the previous strokes. On 1 September, he was flown to Martinique for treatment of his pneumonia. While there, his condition worsened and he was placed on a ventilator. On 4 September, doctors decided that his condition was hopeless; on 5 September, he was returned to the Tapion Hospital in Saint Lucia to die. He died there on 7 September 2007. Acting Prime Minister King declared two weeks of mourning, beginning on 8 September.
A state funeral was held for Compton in Castries, at the Minor Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, on 18 September. Despite Compton's Anglican faith, the local Catholic church was used due to the large number of mourners and at the request of Sir John. The funeral services held in Micoud on 16 September and at the Minor Basilica on 18 September were in keeping with the requests of Sir John for his funeral service, including the hymns which were specifically requested by him. He was cremated on 19 September and his ashes spread in the Troumasse River at his estate in Mahaut upon his request.
The John Compton Dam in central Saint Lucia was renamed in his honor.
Personal life and family
Compton's daughter Jeannine Compton-Antoine is a politician. In a by-election held on 26 November 2007, she won John Compton's constituency of Micoud North.
Another daughter, Nina Compton (born 1980), is a chef. In 2013 she participated in season 11 of the American reality cooking show Top Chef, where she was the runner-up and was voted the "fan favorite".