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Philip S. W. Goldson

Philip Stanley Wilberforce Goldson was born on the 25th of July 1923 in Belize City.  He was the second son of Peter Edward Goldson and his wife Florence Matilda Babb Goldson. He attended St. Mary’s Primary School and although he never had the opportunity to go to high school he studied at night and successfully obtained the Cambridge University Overseas Junior certificate in 1939 and the Senior School Certificate in 1941.

From 1941 to 1947 he worked in the British Honduras Civil Service. While in the Civil Service, Goldson started his career in journalism editing the “Civil Service Chronicle”, “OUTLOOK”, a cultural quarterly of the St. John’s College Literary Society and writing short stories and sketches for the BBC in London. With the advent of the Nationalist Movement, he wrote news items for the Belize Billboard.   The plight of the workers in Belize led him into trade unionism. He became the National Organizer of The General Workers Union in 1949 and later became its General Secretary.

On 29th September 1950 the People’s Committee (a committee formed on December 31, 1949 to protest devaluation) dissolved itself and the People’s United Party was formed.  Its first leaders were: John Smith, Leader; Leigh Richardson, Chairman; George Price, Secretary; and Philip Goldson, Assistant Secretary. From 1950 to 1956 Philip Goldson continued as a Member of the People’s United Party.   During that year he became the editor of the Belize Billboard and later that year the managing editor.

Entrenched Colonialism was hard to reform. The Establishment was complacent, self-satisfied and suspicious of innovation. Even many members of the working class failed to realize the depth of the problems facing the Colony and the difference between their way of life and other people in the outside world.

Mr. Goldson visited Guatemala for a week in 1951 and he wrote a piece for the Billboard which was entitled Seven Days of Freedom. Both Goldson and Leigh Richardson were convicted of “Seditious Intention” in 1951 based on an extract from the Belize Billboard, which stated, “There are two roads to self-government (Independence) – Evolution and Revolution. We are now trying evolution.”   The Colonial Government held that the words imputed an intention to try revolution if evolution did not succeed. They were sentenced to one year hard Labour.

Their ordeal in prison became a further rallying cry for the People’s United Party.

While in prison he spent much of his time teaching some of his fellow inmates to read and write.

Prior to going to jail for his ideals Mr. Goldson won a seat to the Belize City Council and had served as Vice-President (Deputy Mayor) until his conviction.

Once free he went back gladly to public life and in 1954 won a seat in the British Honduras Legislative Council where he was appointed member (quasi-Minister) for Social Services, a post he served with dignity until 1957 when his political career hit a snag. His portfolio included Labour, Housing and Planning, Health, Education and Social Welfare and Community Development. During this period he coordinated the building of Corozal Town after its destruction in 1955 by Hurricane Janet. He pioneered the Village Council system, enacted a new Education Ordinance making Primary Education free, granting government assistance to Secondary Schools for the first time and initiated special allowance for retired teachers who up to then did not enjoy pension benefits, confirmed Belize as contributing member of the U.W.I., also established Department of Housing and Planning with Henry C. Fairweather as its first Director and Town Planner, and revised Government Workers Rules establishing the check-off system for trade unions.

Because of disagreements and conflict of principle Mr. Goldson, Leigh Richardson and others resigned from the People’s United Party in 1956 and formed the Honduras Independence Party. Mr. Goldson lost his bid for a seat in the Government in the 1957 elections.

On July 1, 1958 the new Party joined with the National Party to form the National Independence Party and Mr. Goldson became the Party Secretary and was the NIP leadership and leader of the Opposition to 1979.

In 1973 the National independence Party merged with two other Oppositions groups, the People’s Development Movement and the Liberal Party to form the United Democratic Party. There were new challenges, new jobs to be done, and new campaigns to plan.

At age 51 Mr. Goldson announced he was going to become a lawyer, and he did.   He was called to the Bar at Lincoln’s Inn, London and to the Belize City Bar in the following year. While doing all this he was elected to the Belize City Council and the House of Representatives (1974-80).

Then tragedy struck. Glaucoma left Philip Goldson blind in 1978. Was this the end of his career?

In the 1984 elections he not only won his seat but also was able to celebrate the victory of his party, the United Democratic Party. In the new Government Mr. Goldson was appointed Minister of Social Services and served with distinction.   Even opponents were heard to say, “Goldson, blind, sees some things more clearly than men with two good eyes.”

As Minister he established the Family Court, the Belize City Urban Department, the Department of Women’s Affairs, the District Councils, Disabilities Service Division, and launched the Belizean Partners in Service to Belize, which inspired Belizeans in North America to establish the Consortium for Belizean Development in November 1985.   In mid-1986 he became Minister of Labour and Social Services.

His interest in disabilities led to his election in 1986 as President of the Caribbean association of the Disabled and in 1987 Vice-President of Rehabilitation International.

When a new terminal building was to be built at the International Airport, the Prime Minister and Cabinet decided to rename the facility the Philip S.W. Goldson International Airport. It was fitting tribute to an outstanding Belizean citizen.

Mr. Goldson accepted the honor with humility and announced he would retire at the end of his term to devote his time to writing, the law, and his work for the disabled.

However despite his retirement, on January 13, 1992, he was instrumental in the formation of the National Alliance for Belizean Rights (NABR). The goals of the NABR were the following:

  • To claim a territorial sea to the median line in the south
  • To demand a referendum on the Maritime Areas Bill
  • To defend the territorial integrity of Belize and the constitutional rights of its citizens
  • To end the immigration of Central Americans
  • To end the secret granting of Belizean citizenship to foreigners without restriction

NABR, in constituting itself as a political party, declared its foundation date as January 13, 1992; its colors as green and white; its mission to identify, defend, expand, and activate Belizean rights; and its main object included the preservation of the independence of Belize with its sovereignty established within the land and sea boundaries to which it is entitled under national and international law.

On October 3rd 2001, Philip Stanley Wilberforce Goldson was laid to rest with a State funeral. Just before his death, this Belizean hero and patriot was presented with The Order of BELIZE.

Excerpt from: The Goldson Story – A BELIZEAN Heritage Book 1991