Wesley LeRoy Tucker
Businessman, parliamentarian
Born September 23, 1907

W.L. “Bip” Tucker was known as the ‘Father of the Franchise Bill’ for piloting through Parliament the bill that led to all adults over age 25 getting full voting rights in 1963. It fell short of full universal adult suffrage, but excluding the bill that gave female property owners the right to vote in 1944, it was the first major change to Bermuda’s voting system in 300 years.

Tucker, the owner of wholesale firm Tucker’s Commission House, also made his mark in other areas: he was the first black person appointed to the Executive Council, the forerunner of Cabinet, and the first black president of the Bermuda Employers' Council.

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The Berkeley Institute opens
September 6, 1897

A new era in education began when The Berkeley Institute opened at Samaritan’s Lodge on Court Street, Hamilton with 27 students.  The school was the realisation of a dream that began 18 years earlier when businessman Samuel David Robinson invited five men to his new home Wantley on Princess Street, Hamilton on October 6, 1879 to discuss the feasibility of opening a high school.

Six men joined the original five at a follow-up meeting on October 9. They established The Berkeley Educational Society, and spent the next 18 years raising funds and public support for the school. The school was named after George Berkeley (1685-1753), an Anglo-Irish philosopher and Anglican bishop, whose plan to establish a college in Bermuda for native Americans a century earlier had foundered.

All but one of the 27 students were black, several of them the children of Samuel David Robinson.  (See Wenona Robinson.)

Five months after the school had opened, students were being prepared to take Cambridge exams  in scripture, Latin, French, English language and literature. The first headmaster was George DaCosta of Jamaica. He served in the post for 37 years. 

The founders were insistent about establishing a fully integrated school, but were unsuccessful. Berkeley became the leading high school for black Bermudians during the era of segregation. 

The 11 founders, in addition to Samuel David Robinson, were Joseph Henry Thomas, schoolmaster; Richard Henry Duerden, a dry goods merchant; Eugenius Charles Jackson, Bermuda’s first black lawyer; Charles William Thomas Smith, physician; William Orlando Bascome, dentist; John Henry Jackson, grocer and future parliamentarian; Samuel Parker, Sr. and Jr., publishers of Bermuda’s first black newspaper; Henry Dyer, a ferry-boatman, and William Henry Thomas Joell, a carpenter, who became Bermuda’s first parliamentarian in 1883.

And while the founders were black, several whites played a key role in the school’s early beginnings. They included Rev. Mark James and soft-drinks merchant John Barritt.

Source: The Berkeley Educational Society’s Origins and Early History By Kenneth Ellsworth Robinson

Samuel David Robinson's dream of Berkeley Institute became a reality in 1897. Photo couresty of Carol Hill.

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