Hector Archibald Joseph


   Hector Archibald Joseph was apparently the first Black barrister in Jamaica. He was born in 1871 and grew up in the Liguanea area. His father had a shop in Matilda’s Corner and owned land in Barbican on which he grew pineapples. Hector Joseph went to the Collegiate School in Kingston, then the top school in the island, and to York Castle School. In 1891 he won the Jamaica Scholarship, and went to Cambridge and London Universities in England to study law. He did his law at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, the top college for lawyers, and read for the bar at Lincoln’s Inn, in London.

   He came back to Jamaica in 1896 and soon became one of the most prominent barristers in the island, taking part in many important cases. He was one of the Jamaican lawyers appearing for the insurance companies in the cases brought after the 1907 earthquake. In 1911 he was made a KC, the first Black Jamaican to achieve that status.  At various times he acted as assistant to the Attorney General, and acted both as Attorney General and Puisne Judge in Jamaica. In the 1920s he was appointed Attorney General in British Guiana where he worked until 1936, establishing a solid reputation as a fine lawyer. Only his ill health prevented him from being appointed the Chief Justice there.

   In addition to his work as a lawyer, he also involved himself in many associations, both in Jamaica and British Guiana. Organisations connected with sport and young people, such as the Boy Scouts, the YMCA, and the Jamaica Amateur Athletic Association, were among the many that received his support. Like the majority of prominent Jamaican men, of all ethnic origins, he was a Freemason, though he seems to have given up that connection after his marriage to a devout Roman Catholic.

   He retired from his post in British Guiana in 1936, returning to Jamaica with serious heart problems. He died later that year, and a large congregation, especially of members of the legal fraternity, attended his funeral at the Holy Trinity Cathedral.

   When he left to go to British Guiana in 1925 a Daily Gleaner columnist wrote: ‘One of the ablest and most talented sons of Jamaica departs from these shores to take up duties in British Guiana as Attorney General. Jamaica’s loss is Guiana’s gain.’