Percival Noel James Patterson
The Order of the Companions of O.R. Tambo in
Profile of Percival Noel James Patterson
Percival Noel James Patterson was born in 1935 in St Andrew, Jamaica. He excelled at school and earned an Honour’s Degree in English at the University of the West Indies; and later enrolled at the London School of Economics in the UK.
While still a student, he became politically active in Jamaica – then a British colony – which had a history of colourful and contentious politics. He worked for the People’s National Party (PNP), which in the 1960s and 1970s supported socialist programmes aimed at improving the quality of life of the impoverished Jamaican masses through government control over industry and forged ties with leaders such as Fidel Castro of Cuba.
Patterson then continued his education in London. After obtaining a law degree in 1963, he passed the bar in Britain and Jamaica. When he returned to Jamaica, he served the PNP, which was struggling for ascendancy over its long-time rival, the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), in the wake of independence from Britain.
A passionate opponent of apartheid, he was an ardent supporter of South Africa’s liberation movement. In 1987, during the time when Patterson was the chairman of the PNP and Michael Manley was its President, the ANC was invited to attend the PNP’s Founder’s Day banquet celebrating the 15th anniversary of Jamaica’s independence. Then President of the ANC, Oliver Tambo, addressed the occasion in Kingston, Jamaica, on 4 July 1987.
It was during Patterson’s term as Prime Minister in 1991 that an agreed political code of conduct was signed by the JLP and the PNP. Nelson Mandela, as leader of the ANC at the time, visited Jamaica for two days during this time with then wife Winnie to receive an honorary degree from the University of the West Indies. The visit was emotionally charged, as the welcome was tumultuous – perhaps the most tumultuous since the visit of Emperor Haile Selassie in 1966.