Born on April 28, 1898 at Colliston, Government Hill, St. Michael to Fitzherbert Adams and Rosa Frances Turney. Sir Grantley Herbert Adams was a Barbadian and British West Indian statesman and the founder of the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) and the First Premier of Barbados.
Educated in Barbados at Harrison College, in 1918 after winning a Barbados Scholarship he left the island and went to undertake his undergraduate studies at Oxford University in England where he studied Classics and Jurisprudence.
Adams was admitted to the Bar at Grey’s Inn and functioned as a Counsel of Her Majesty, the Queen of England. He returned to Barbados in 1925, and in 1929 the former Grace Thorne became Mrs. Grantley Adams. Acclaimed a highly respected lawyer, Adams was elected to the House of Assembly in 1934 as a member for St. Joseph, where he was able to proficiently debate on the floor. He returned to office in the 1935 and 1936 General Elections.
In 1937 after the riots and arresting, trial and deportation of Clement Payne. Adams represented Payne and vowed that he will make every effort to restore order in Barbados.
The Birth of the Barbados Labour Party
On March 31, 1938 the Barbados Labour Party was formed. The intention of the party was to focus on the unity of workers. Although Grantley Adams was absent from Barbados, the party elected him the first deputy leader in and in 1939 he took over leadership of the party.
In the mid 1940s Adams along with Hugh Worrell Springer,
were able to use power and influence due to their membership on the Governor-in-Executive Committee. His pivotal role in the many key changes throughout Barbados are numerous; for example:
• The opportunity for all women to vote on equal terms with men
• The construction of the Deep Water Harbour
• The construction of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital
• The birth of Erdiston Teacher’s College in 1948
• An increase in old age pensions
• An improvement in the working conditions for shop assistants
• And increase in the public sector wages
• The Barbados Workmen’s Compensation Act
The Workmen’s Compensation Act was passed in 1946 while Adams was Leader of the House.
In addition, 1940 under the leadership of Adams the party (then called Barbados Labour Progressive League) won five seats in the House of Assembly, and in 1941 the Barbados Workers Union was firmed and Adams became the president until 1954.
In 1947 the Montego Bay Conference held in Jamaica and organized by Labour Leaders, Adams proposals called for a strong central federal government. It was accepted and later established in 1958 in with its Capital in Trinidad. Following the federal elections in March 1958, Adams assumed the office of Prime Minister of the first West Indies Federation, which comprised the countries of Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, St. Kitts, Nevis and Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Montserrat, Grenada, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent.
On September 19, 1961 because of a lack of support for the federation in Jamaica and the matter was tested in a referendum Jamaica withdrew from the federation. Soon after so did Trinidad and Tobago.
In 1966 he led the Barbados Labour Party in the general election and he was again elected to the House of Assembly, where he served as opposition leader.
In October 1970 he was forced to retire from the House of Assembly for the second and final time.
His son Jon Michael Geoffrey Manningham “Tom” Adams would eventually follow in his fathers footsteps and attend Oxford University to study law. He would also become the second Prime Minister of Barbados from 1976 until 1985.
Grantley Adams International Airport
In 1939 when the first airplane landed in then known as Seawell Airport, it was only a grassy airfield.
In 1976 the Seawell Airport was renamed to honor the First Premier of Barbados Sir Grantley Adams.