Joseph Milward Gordon


   Joseph Milward Gordon was born in Spanish Town on June 30, 1853, and so was too young to be involved in the disastrous events of 1865. He died, at the early age, even for those days, of nearly forty, on June 9, 1893, just before Robert Love began his revitalising campaign in Jamaican politics.

   As a boy, he attended one of the best schools in the island, the Kingston Collegiate School, as his father was a firm believer in the value of education. There he associated with boys who were later his colleagues in the business world, in Masonic affairs and in politics.

   When he left school, he went into the offices of Clunie & Richmond, Civil Engineers, but left there in 1879, when he and his brothers inherited their father's pen keeping and butchery business in Spanish Town.

   In 1885, he stood in the first elections for the new elected Parochial Boards and was elected at the top of the poll in St Catherine, also polling more votes than any other candidate in the island.

   In 1890, he was installed as Master of the Collegium Fabrorium Lodge of the Free Masons, and in October 1890 he was married in the Half Way Tree Parish Church, to Louise Noella Archambeau, daughter of John Archambeau, of Camperdown Pen.

   He was an enthusiastic supporter of the International Exhibition of 1891 in Kingston, and used his considerable influence to encourage Black Jamaicans to support and attend the Exhibition.

   In 1891 he was elected Chairman of the St. Catherine Parochial Board; his career in parochial politics had not been easy, as cliques in the political arena had used every means to try to prevent his success. He overcame this opposition with the support of the majority of the Black voters in the parish.

   It was known that he hoped to stand for election to the Legislative Council, and he would probably have done so if illness and death had not intervened. If Joseph Gordon had stood, and been elected, as he might well have been in 1894, for the St Catherine seat in the re-constituted Legislative Council, he would have been the first Black man to enter national politics in Jamaica since the days of Edward Vickars, the Black Assemblyman in the 1850s and ‘60s.

   Although the account given above of Gordon’s career is suggestive of a privileged upbringing and status more usually associated with White and Coloured men in the 19th century, he was in his day seen as the outstanding representative of the Black population and the most significant Black politician of his generation.