Dominica’s first Chief Minister, Franklyn Andrew Merrifield Baron, has died.
He passed away at the Princess Margaret Hospital on April 9, 2016.
He was 93.
He was born at Portsmouth on 19 January 1923. He was educated at the Portsmouth Government School, The Dominica Grammar School, and St. Mary’s Academy.
He started his business career in 1939 as Manager of his father’s company, A.A . Baron & Company, a firm engaged in import/export activities, general merchandise and groceries and assumed partnership of the firm in 1945. He was involved in the first exports of bananas after World War II and was a founding member of the Dominica Banana Growers Association (DBGA).
He served on the Roseau Town Council in the 1940s. He unsuccessfully contested the Portsmouth Legislative Council seat in 1951 general elections, losing to R.B.Douglas. As a result of this defeat, he abandoned Portsmouth and concentrated his attention on Roseau and the south of Dominica. He won the Roseau South seat in the 1954 and 1957 general elections.
In March 1956 the ministerial system of government was introduced and Baron was made Minister for Trade and Production. In 1957 he founded the Dominica United Peoples Party (DUPP) and formed the government. During 1957 he represented Dominica at talks in Jamaica and Barbados leading to the creation of the Federation of the West Indies the following year. Baron represented the Windward Islands at talks in London on the winding up of military bases in the West Indies between the United States of America, United Kingdom and West Indies in 1957.
In constitutional changes resulting from the 1959 Constitution, and coming into effect in January 1960, Baron was made Minister of Finance and first Chief Minister of Dominica. He lost his seat and the government to the Dominica Labour Party (DLP) in the general elections of 17 January 1961.
Baron’s DUPP government was responsible for planning, negotiating and beginning several important infrastructural projects such as Melville Hall Airport and the roads to the east coast, but these were completed during the first years of the DLP government and were forever associated with Edward Le Blanc’s leadership.
When the DUPP lost to the DLP by a landslide in the 1966 general elections, he quit active politics and returned to business, tourism and real estate.
He built and operated the Sisserou Hotel. He was a prime mover in the Rotary Club’s construction of a Psychiatric Unit to replace the outdated St. Luke’s psychiatric home.
He was a great friend of Mary Eugenia Charles and when her Dominica Freedom Party came to power in 1980, Frank Baron was very much a power behind the scenes. Dame Eugenia appointed him to several diplomatic posts. He served as High Commissioner to the Court of St.James, London, and was Ambassador to the UN, OAS and the US. He founded Paramount Printers and bought out the New Chronicle newspaper and re-established it under its former name as The Chronicle.