2nd Prime Minister: Tom Adams (1976 – 1985)

Prime Minister of Barbados Tom Adams was born Jon Michael Geoffrey Manningham Adams on September 24th, 1931. Tom Adams was the only son of Sir Grantley Herbert Adams and his wife, Grace Adams.

Young Adams attended Harrison College. Winner of a Barbados Scholarship, Adams pursued his studies in Britain, where he attended Magdalen College of the University of Oxford. Graduating with a Masters’s degree in Politics, Philosophy, and Economics, Adams was called to the British Bar in 1965.

After returning to Barbados, Adams was elected into the newly independent in 1966. Just 5 years later, Adams became the official Leader of the Opposition.

A Barbadian politician and elected the second Prime Minister of Barbados, Tom Adams differed significantly from his predecessor Errol Barrow. After 15 years of administration by the Democratic Labour Party (DLP), the Bajan populace looked for a change.

Under the Barbados Labour Party, Adams won two consecutive elections. He was expected to win a third election before his sudden death in 1985. Adams’ term lasted from September 8th, 1976, until March 11th, 1985.

Adams’ conservative stance led to a stark change in Barbadian politics and international relations, which divided the Bajan electorate and eventually led to a return to Barbados Democratic Party (BDP) rule in 1986.

Internationally, Adams is remembered for his stance on military security and democracy. Upon his death, Dean Harold Crichlow delivered a touching eulogy: “He had the courage to face world criticism in support of a cause which he believed threatened world peace.”

In 1982, Adams initiated the formation of the Eastern Caribbean Security Alliance. To support the alliance, Adams proposed a single regional army. However, the plan was squashed as opponents criticized what they perceived as the region’s ‘militarisation.’

Adams also played a major role in supporting the American overthrow of Grenada’s populist Prime Minister Maurice Bishop, who was killed in a 1983 coup.

Locally, Tom Adams administration boasts many achievements towards the social development of such as:

— Tenantries Freehold Purchase Act helped correct the ‘landless freedom’ associated with the post-Independence period

— Administrative Justice Act helped protect citizens against administrative and Ministerial impropriety and tyranny

— 1978 Status of Women Report improved the status and financial security of underclass women

— Status of Children Reform Act eliminated the concept of illegitimacy from the statute books and Family Law Reform helping to end a history of stigma and marginalization.

Tom was known for his biting comments and his passion for debate. When questioned about his relationship with his father, Adams said: “He always told me not to be sarcastic. I wish. I hope that I followed that advice at all times.”

Nevertheless, during the 3rd Annual Tom Adams Memorial Lecture given by the Right Honourable Owen Arthur in September 2007, then Prime Minister Arthur is quoted as saying:

“On behalf of the many victims of the most sarcastic tongue in the history of Barbadian politics, I have this evening to say that if I ever have a wayward son, I shall call him Tom!”

On March 11th, 1985, Prime Minister “Tom” Adams died at his official residence, Ilaro Court. Records show that Adams died while viewing his extensive stamp collection in his study when he collapsed from a heart attack. He was 53 years old.


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Brett Callaghan is the founder and managing director of Totally Barbados. I specialize in writing content for the tourism industry for my island home of Barbados. I help companies build strategies to grow online businesses with SMART marketing, advertising, and social media goals.