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Hugh Shearer

The Most Honourable
Hugh Lawson Shearer
3rd Prime Minister of Jamaica
In office
11 April 1967 – 2 March 1972
Monarch Elizabeth II
Preceded by Sir Donald Sangster
Succeeded by Michael Manley
Minister of Foreign Affairs
In office
1 November 1980 – 10 February 1989
Prime Minister Edward Seaga
Leader of the Jamaica Labour Party
In office
1967 – November 1974
Preceded by Donald Sangster
Succeeded by Edward Seaga
Personal details
Born 18 May 1923
Martha Brae, Trelawny Parish, Jamaica
Died 5 July 2004 (aged 81)
Kingston, Jamaica
Nationality Jamaica
Political party Jamaica Labour Party
Spouse(s) First Marriage (?–?; divorce)
Denise Eldemire Shearer (1998[1]–2004; his death)
Children Five

Hugh Lawson Shearer ON OJ PC (18 May 1923 – 5 July 2004) was a Jamaican politician and trade unionist, who served as the third Prime Minister of Jamaica, from 1967 to 1972.


  • Biography 1
    • Early life 1.1
    • Personal life 1.2
    • Career and trade unions 1.3
    • Political career 1.4
    • Death and legacy 1.5
  • References 2
  • Sources 3


Early life

Born in Martha Brae, Trelawny Parish, Jamaica, near the sugar and banana growing areas, Shearer attended St Simon's College after winning a parish scholarship to the school. He then graduated from Howard University School of Law.[2]

Personal life

Hugh Shearer was married twice during his life.[3][4]

Shearer was separated from his first wife, with whom he had three children, by the time he became Prime Minister in 1967.[5]

Hugh Shearer married his second wife, Dr. Denise Eldemire Shearer, on August 28, 1998.[1] She is the daughter of the late Dr. Herbert Eldemire, who served as Jamaica's first Health Minister from 1962 to 1972.[6] The couple were married for nearly 6 years, until his death in July 2004.

He had one son and two daughters.[3][4]

Career and trade unions

In 1941 he took a job on the staff of a weekly trade union newspaper, the Jamaican Worker. His first political promotion came in 1943, when Sir Alexander Bustamante, founder of the Jamaican Labour Party (JLP), took over editorship of the paper and took Shearer under his wing. Shearer continued to get promotion after promotion within the union and acquired a Government Trade Union scholarship in 1947.

He was appointed Island Supervisor of Bustamante's trade union, BITU, and shortly afterwards elected Vice-President of the union.

Political career

Shearer was elected to the House of Representatives of Jamaica as member for Western Kingston in 1955, an office he retained for the next four years until he was defeated in the 1959 elections.

He was a member of the Senate from 1962 to 1967, at the same time filling the role of Jamaica's chief spokesman on foreign affairs as Deputy Chief of Mission at the United Nations. In 1967 he was elected as member for Southern Clarendon and, after the death of Sir Donald Sangster, appointed Prime Minister on 11 April 1967.

Hugh Shearer (on platform), while Prime Minister, giving an impromptu speech at Palisadeos Airport, Kingston, to members of the Jamaica Defence Force, during a light rainstorm.

Thanks to his work with the Jamaican Worker earlier in his life, Shearer managed to stay on generally good terms with the Jamaican working class, and was generally well liked by the populace. However, he did cause an outcry of anger in October 1968 when his government banned the historian, Walter Rodney from re-entering the country. On 16 October a series of riots, known as the Rodney Riots broke out, after peaceful protest by students from the University of the West Indies campus at Mona, was suppressed by police; rioting spreading throughout Kingston. Shearer stood by the ban claiming that Rodney was a danger to Jamaica, citing his socialist ties, trips to Cuba and the USSR, as well as his radical Black nationalism.

Shearer was generally uncomfortable with notions of pan-Africanism or militant black nationalism. He was also insecure about the stability of newly independent Jamaica in the late 1960s.

His term as Prime Minister was a prosperous one for Jamaica, with three new alumina refineries were built, along with three large tourist resorts. These six buildings formed the basis of Jamaica's mining and tourism industries, the two biggest earners for the country.

Shearer's term was also marked by a great upswing in secondary school enrolment after an intense education campaign on his part. Fifty new schools were constructed.

It was by pressure from Shearer that the Law of the Sea Authority chose Kingston to house its headquarters.

In the 1972 elections, the JLP was defeated and the People's National Party leader, Michael Manley, became Prime Minister. Between 1980 and 1989, during the prime ministership of Edward Seaga, who had succeeded him as leader of the JLP in 1974, Shearer was deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs.

Death and legacy

He died at his home in Kingston on 5 July 2004, at the age of 81. The Most Honourable Hugh Lawson Shearer was survived by his wife, the Most Hon. Dr. Denise Eldemire Shearer, sons Corey Alexander, Howard, Lance and Donald, and daughters Hope, Hilary, Heather, Mischka Garel, and Ana Margaret Sanchez.

On 14 May 2009, the Bank of Jamaica announced a plan to issue a JA$5000 note with the likeness of Shearer on it, as was explained in detail on Monday 18 May 2009 by the Governor of Jamaica's Central Bank Derick Milton Latibeaudiere.[7][8][9]


  1. ^ a b McLymont, Indi (2002-07-22). "Denise Eldemire-Shearer advocate for the elderly".  
  2. ^ "Hugh Shearer, 81; Led Jamaica in Early Years of Independence". Los Angeles Times. July 11, 2004. Retrieved November 2, 2015. 
  3. ^ a b Chamberlain, Greg (2004-08-24). "Hugh Shearer obituary".  
  4. ^ a b Harding, Colin (2004-07-07). "Hugh Shearer - 'Decent' prime minister of Jamaica".  
  5. ^ Bell Thompson, Era (October 1967). "Black Leaders of the West Indies (page 77)".  
  6. ^ "Former health minister Herbert Eldemire is dead".  
  7. ^ "Jamaica introduces $5,000 note, worth US$55", Antillean, 15 May 2009..
  8. ^ Jamaica welcomes the Shearer - New $5,000 note named after the late PM", TriniTuner, 15 May 2009.
  9. ^ "Jamaica-New $5000 bill", SeWhaa!, 18 May 2009.


  • Neita, Hartley, 2005. Hugh Shearer; A Voice for the People. Kingston, Jamaica: Ian Randle Publishers, The Institute of Jamaica.
  • Senior, Olive, 2003. Encyclopaedia of Jamaican Heritage.
  • Image ref :
Preceded by
Sir Donald Sangster
Prime Minister of Jamaica
Succeeded by
Michael Manley

The $5,000 bill with Hugh Shearer's portrait was put in circulation on 24 September 2009.

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