Sir Donald Sangster Jamaica’s second Prime Minister

donald sangster

Sir Donald Sangster – Photo courtesy of

The Most Honourable Sir Donald Burns Sangster was a Jamaican solicitor, politician and the second Prime Minister of Jamaica.

Sir Donald was born on October 26, 1911. He was the son of the late W. B. Sangster, Commissioned Land Surveyor of St. Elizabeth, and Mrs. Sangster. He was educated at Munro College (1921-1929) and was admitted to practice as a solicitor in Jamaica in 1937.

Donald Sangster was a versatile sportsman, participating actively in cricket, football, athletics and boxing while attending college. This interest in sports continued after he left Munro College, and at one time he was captain of the St. Elizabeth Parish team in the Nethersole Cricket Cup Competition.

He began his political career at the age of twenty-one when he campaigned and won a seat in the St. Elizabeth Parochial Board on June 22, 1933.  He became Vice-Chairman of his Parochial Board in 1941, and Chairman in 1949.

In 1944 he made his first bid to enter national politics when as an Independent Candidate he contested the South St. Elizabeth constituency seat, and lost.  He 1941, and Chairman in 1949.

His political career in national politics suffered a temporary set-back in February 1955, when his party lost the General Election and he himself lost his seat in South St. Elizabeth.  Later that year he, however, lost his seat in South St. Elizabeth.  Later that year he however successfully contested a by-election for the North-East Clarendon constituency.

Sir Donald was a member of the House of Representatives since 1949, and was First Deputy Leader of the JLP since 1950.  He was Leader of the House from 1953 to 1955, and was reappointed to this post in 1962.  In June 1966, Sir Donald relinquished this post.  At the time of his death he represented the constituency of North Central Clarendon in Parliament.

He was Minister of Social Welfare from 1950 to 1953 and Minister of Finance from 1953 until 1955 when his party lost the General Elections.  In 1962 when the JLP was returned to office he was appointed Minister of Finance and subsequently Deputy Prime Minister.

He was appointed to act as Prime Minister, Minister of External Affairs and Minister of Defence in January 1965 as a result of the illness of the Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon. Sir Alexander Bustamante.  While acting Sir Donald retained the post of Minister of Finance.  He had previously acted for a short while as Prime Minister in 1964.

After the victory of the JLP in the General Elections on February 21, 1967, and the resignation of Sir Alexander Bustamante, he was appointed Prime Minister on February 22, 1967, retaining at the same time the posts of Minister of Finance and Minister of Defence.

Mr. Sangster was Jamaica’s delegate to the Commonwealth Parliament Conferences in New Zealand in 1950, Ceylon in 1952, and Malaysia in 1963, and he was Chairman of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association in 1964 and Chairman at its Conference, which was held in Jamaica in that year.

donald sangster

Sir Donald Sangster – photo courtesy of

He was Jamaica’s representative on the West Indies Regional Economic Committee from 1950 to 1955, and Leader of Jamaica’s delegations to the Commonwealth Economic Consultative Council Conferences in 1951, 1963-1966.  Jamaica was the host country for this conference in 1955 and Sir Donald presided.  He also led Jamaica’s delegation to the World Bank and International Monetary Fund meetings in Washington (1963-1966).  He had been a Governor of the World Bank and IMF since 1963.

Sir Donald was a member of Jamaica’s delegation to the Heads of Commonwealth Caribbean conference in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad in 1963 and in Kingston, Jamaica in 1964.  He also led the delegation to these conferences in Georgetown, Guyana in 1965 and in Bridgetown, Barbados in 1966.  He also led Jamaica’s delegation to the Canada-Commonwealth Caribbean Countries in Ottawa in July 1966.

Mr. Sangster accompanied Sir Alexander Bustamante to the Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ Conference in London in 1962 and he attended this conference as Sir Alexander’s representative in 1964.  Sir Donald attended as Acting Prime Minister, the conferences in London in 1965, Lagos in 1966.

He was a member of the Joint Committee of Parliament, which framed the Constitution for Independent Jamaica, and he was a member of the delegation that went to England in 1962 to discuss it with the British Government. He was also the Chairman of the University of the West Indies Grants Committee.

He advocated for the development of the second airport in Montego Bay, which now carries his name –Sangster International Airport.

Sir Donald served on a number of public boards and committees during his lifetime.  He had been a member of Manning’s Home Advisory Committee, and of the East and West St. Elizabeth School Boards.  He had been a Director of Jamaica Vegetables Ltd., from 1943 to 1949, and he also played a prominent part in the scouting activities of St. Elizabeth.  He had been a member of the Munro and Dickenson Trust, the Black River Drainage and Irrigation Board and also a member of the Board of Governors of the Institute of Jamaica.

As Prime Minister, Sangster attended only one session of parliament before he suddenly became ill and was sent to Montreal, Canada for treatment. He succumbed to his illness and passed away on April 11, 1967. Five days before he died, he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II.


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