Rt Hon John Compton (LLB, 1952)

compton, john

Rt Hon John Compton was a leading social activist later prime minister of St Lucia. Compton born in 1926 on Canouan, part of St Vincent and the Grenadines, south of St Lucia.  He moved to St Lucia as a teenager, where he studied at St Mary’s Academy, one the leading schools on the island.  He then spent some time working in the oil refineries of the Dutch Island of Curacao, before his time at LSE, where he graduated with an LLB in 1952.  He was also called to the Bar at Gray’s Inn.

When he returned to St Lucia, Compton set up a private practice, before entering politics in 1954 when he became an independent member of the Island’s legislative council. In 1956 he joined the Island’s largest party, the St Lucia Labour Party (SLP), and became known for his involvement in anti-colonial politics.  The Island’s sugar factories refused union recognition for their workers.  Consequently, the union launched a strike.  The Guardian describes the events as follows: “Compton entered the dispute when, arriving at a factory, he was confronted by its owner with a gun. In response, Compton drew his own gun. As the crisis escalated, the British government, overreacting, sent a warship and police reinforcements from neighbouring islands. The strike ended with the workers getting a pay rise - and union recognition. Compton was charged with disturbing the peace, convicted and fined, but he emerged a hero. The incident did his reputation no harm.”  From thereon, Compton remained involved in politics.  In the early 1960s he resigned from the SLP, and in 1964 formed the United Workers Party (UWP).  That same year, the UWP gained more than 92 percent of the vote in his own Micoud-Praslin constituency.  UWP won the island general election.  

The party’s success continued in 1969 and 1974. When St Lucia became independent in 1979, Compton became Prime Minister.