Vincentians mourn legal luminary, ex-Deputy PM Parnel Campbell

The late Vincentian Deputy Prime Minister, Parnel R. Campbell, QC.
The Campbell Family

Vincentians at home and in the Diaspora are mourning the death of legal luminary and former Deputy Prime Minister Parnel R. Campbell, a Queens Counsel (QC).

Campbell, affectionately called “PR”, died on April 19 at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital in Kingstown, the Vincentian capital. He was 75. He was accorded an Official Funeral on Thursday, May 13.

According to the local Searchlight newspaper, Campbell had “a long and distinguished record of service to St. Vincent and the Grenadines.”

The paper said he was a member of Parliament for the East Kingstown and Central Kingstown constituencies from 1987 – 1989 and 1989 – 1998, respectively, under the New Democratic Party (NDP) administration of former Prime Minister Sir James F. Mitchell.

During that time, the Searchlight said that Campbell served as attorney general — from 1987 to 1995 — and held ministerial and other notable positions, besides being deputy prime minister, such as deputy speaker of the House of Assembly, and minister of Justice, Information and Culture.

“He was an attorney general of the highest quality,” the Searchlight quoted Prime Minister Gonsalves as saying. “He was a reform-minded attorney general, he was a Christian who invigorated the Spiritual Baptist faith, to which he belonged. He gave it enhanced prominence in our society.

“Perhaps, more than anyone else since Independence or, indeed, before, Parnel Campbell has done more than anyone else to educate the people of this country on the law and what it means to each individual,” Gonsalves added. “The long running program, ‘The Law and You’, on national television, after he left active politics, is legendary.”

The prime minister said that Campbell was his colleague at the Bar and that they were friends.

“We worked together in the same political organization,” he told the Searchlight. “Then, we were political rivals, and we remained friends. He was simply a wonderful human being.”

The NDP said in a statement that Campbell, who was its long-serving chairman, was “a well-respected lawyer, and defender of the legal and political rights of fellow Vincentians.

“Many benefited individually and as a community from his professional skill and diligence,” said the main opposition party in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

The Searchlight noted that Campbell also served as chairman of the Constitutional Review Commission, “which was charged with the responsibility to prepare the Revised Constitution of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, which was defeated in a national referendum in 2009.”

“The well-respected lawyer is survived by his widow Juliette, children Denise, Arusha, Alpha, Bantu, Mandella and Daniel, many other relatives and friends,” the paper said.

Her Ladyship, Dame Janice M. Pereira, chief justice, judicial officers, management and staff of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC) also joined the regional legal fraternity in mourning Campbell’s death.

“While we mourn the loss of a legal giant, we recognize that Mr. Parnel R. Campbell, QC, has left a rich and lasting legacy: his deep and meaningful contribution to the legal profession as a skilled advocate, Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs of St. Vincent and the Grenadines from 1987 to 1995, as well as his many notable contributions,” said the court in its tribute.

It said Campbell’s contributions included chairmanship of the Constitutional Reform Committee, his work in establishing the Family Court in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and in spearheading legislation, which increased access to maintenance for unmarried mothers and their children; and his contribution to the comprehensive revision of the laws of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

The ECSC said Campbell was also part of the legal team that won back the historic Orange Hill estate for the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

“His advocacy, particularly in the area of constitutional law, complex civil litigation and industrial relations, served to cement his place as a leader of the private and public bar, for which he served with distinction for many years,” the court said.

In eulogizing her father, during the extraordinarily, very long Official Funeral Service, at the Kingstown Methodist Church, Dr. Arusha Campbell-Chambers, Campbell’s second child, a dermatologist, with offices in Montego Bay and Kingston, Jamaica, said Campbell was born on Friday, July 6, 1945, in the town of Barrouallie, in Central Leeward, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, to Rosalie King and Dola Campbell.

Dr. Campbell-Chambers said her father’s parents named him Parnel Randolph Campbell, “affectionately called PR,” and that “his name became synonymous with St. Vincent and the Grenadines, as he became one of the national icons of our nation.”

“Daddy was born and bred a Vincentian, and he never forgot his humble roots, though he rose to the pinnacle of society,” she said.

“Daddy stated that he grew up in a ‘loving household, who were dirt poor, but they didn’t feel impoverished,’” she added. “There was always this love, even though his mother was working as a laborer in the arrowroot factory, and his stepfather was a watchman there as well – both with meagre earnings.

“However, they taught them the value of thrift; of counting every penny; of being honest; of doing without what you don’t have; don’t envy people for what they have, because you don’t know how they got it; stick to your word; if you make a promise, keep that promise, regardless – values which were solid and assisted him in passing on something to his children,” Dr. Campbell-Chambers continued.

She said she spoke “literally when I say that daddy sacrificed his heart for this country.”

Several years ago, Dr. Campbell-Chambers said her father “confessed to us, his family, that during the period of working on the revised Constitution, he sacrificed his health.

“Even before that, his challenges with his heart surfaced, with heart attacks in 1991 and 1993, while he was in public service,” Campbell-Chambers said. “In May 1993, he suffered a heart attack, which resulted in his hospitalization at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Barbados.”

“Today, we say our earthly goodbyes to one who has served us well,” she added. “So goodbye daddy, husband, father, brother, friend, legal giant, distinguished intellectual, man of integrity. You faced triumphs and challenges with equanimity. You exuded style and sophistication in decorum, dress and speech.

“As you soared to the heights of academics and achievements, you uplifted all Vincentians,” Dr. Campbell-Chambers continued. “Good bye Parnel Randolph Campbell (PR), QC, CVO, noble son of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the Caribbean and the world. Your footsteps can never be fully filled. You will be sadly missed but lovingly remembered every day, RIP.

“You have done well, you have been a good and faithful servant,” she said. “Until we meet again in eternity. We have loved, and will forever love and respect you.”

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