The Right Excellent Sir Roland Theodore Symonette, NH
National Hero; Former Chief Minister and Premier of the Bahama Islands
Sir Roland Theodore Symonette was a Bahamian politician and former Premier
Early life and education
Roland "Pop" Symonette was born on the small island settlement of Current, Eleuthera. Symonette was one of many children of Methodist Minister Edwin Symonette and his wife Lavania (née Weech).
Although he had only six years of formal education, Symonette became one of the wealthiest men of his generation. An autodidact and life-long advocate of education, Symonette was a school teacher early in his career, but, during Prohibition, Symonette 'ran' rum to the United States. With the profits from rum-running, Symonette invested in real estate, liquor stores and, eventually, a shipyard. The Symonette family's holdings have never been publicly confirmed, but public speculation has placed it between $700 million and $2.5 billion USD.
In 1925, Symonette campaigned successfully for a seat in the Bahamas' House of Assembly. Symonette served in the House, representing the Shirlea district, without interruption until his retirement in 1977. Symonette's 52 years as a Member of Parliament is the longest record of service in the House of Assembly.
Symonette served as the head of government of the Bahama Islands from 1955 to 1964 and in 1964, when the country achieved internal self-government, Sir Roland Symonette became the first Premier of the Bahama Islands. In 1959, Symonette was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II.
Symonette was married three times. By his first wife Nellie, Symonette had one son, Basil Harcourt. By his second wife, the former Thelma Bell Clepper of Andalusia, Alabama, Symonette had a one son, Robert "Bobby" and one daughter, Zelda. In the late 1940s, Symonette married Canadian Margaret Frances. This third marriage produced one daughter, Margaret, who died in infancy, and two sons, Roland Craig and Brent. Symonette's son Bobby served formerly as Speaker of the House of Assembly. His youngest son Brent Symonette is the current Deputy Prime Minister of The Bahamas, Free National Movement and Minister of Foreign Affairs in the Ingraham led government.
Honours and awards
In 2018, he was posthumously confered with the Order of National Hero (NH).
Death and legacy
Sir Roland Symonette died on 13 March 1980 at his home in Nassau.
Symonette's portrait appears on the Bahamian $50 dollar note.
The community park in the settlement of Current, Eleuthera, Bahamas just feet away from where Sir. Roland was born was named and commemorated in his Honor on what would have been his 111th birthday on 16 December 2009. On hand for the dedication ceremony were Sir Roland's two sons, the Hon. Brent Symonette, Deputy Prime Minister of the Bahamas, and his brother Mr. Craig Symonette, a well accomplished businessman, along with their families.