Biography of Philip Stanley Wilberforce Goldson: 1923 - 2001 Occasion - National Heroes & Benefactors Day Print E-mail
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Written by Prepared/written by Ann-Marie Williams   
Thursday, 14 March 2013 00:00

PhilipMarch 11, 2013

He meant many things to many people, for many reasons for many years. He’s no other than Philip Stanley Wilberforce Goldson. The man, former Prime Minister Manuel Esquivel dubbed the Father of Belize’s democracy. 

Born on July 25, 1923 in Belize City to parents, Peter Edward Goldson and his wife Florence Matilda Babb, the young Philip, attended St. Mary’s Primary School and night classes in order to sit the Cambridge overseas Junior Certificate exams which he successfully passed.

After working briefly as a civil servant, Goldson found his voice in journalism. As a young journalist, he wrote many articles which championed workers rights, during the rise of the Nationalist Movement in the 1940s, for, the premiere newspaper, the Belize Billboard. 

Goldson’s foray into politics was by way of the labour movement, and in 1949 he was named the National Organizer of the General Workers Union and later its General Secretary. In the late 1940s he was one of the founding members of the People’s Committee formed on December 31, 1949 in response to the devaluation of the Belize dollar.

Together with activists, the likes of former Prime Minister, George Price and John Smith, Goldson founded the People’s United Party in 1950 and served as its Assistant Secretary.

Things quickly changed for Goldson, a year later, when he along with Leigh Richardson was convicted of “seditious intention” and sentenced to one year hard labour; all because a published article in the Belize Billboard  suggested that “there are two roads to Independence: evolution and revolution.” After serving prison time many of us would have given up the fight--not Goldson. It’s as if prison ignited the political flame which had smoldered in him for a year; because he won his seat on the then British Honduras Legislative Council.

It was commonly thought that Goldson and Richardson were jailed by colonial authorities so that the Belize Billboard, an anti-colonial mouth piece could no longer be published.  However, with the help of a prison warden Goldson and Richardson wrote the articles for the newspaper on toilet paper which was smuggled out of prison on a daily basis and delivered to the Governor’s own cook, who then secretly delivered the articles to the Belize Billboard Press.

Goldson was loved and highly regarded among Belizeans for his stance on what he called the “Unfounded Guatemala Claim”. For this reason, he never lost an election and was elected each time because it was felt that he would not waiver in protecting Belize from any kind of threat of making concession to Guatemala. He rejected the notion of negotiations, because Belize’s existence was non-negotiable. He asserted that “Belize belongs to all Belizeans and as such, we have a duty, right and responsibility to protect and preserve Belize.”

Politics being what it is—never a dull moment; Goldson had his disagreements with the People’s United Party, and broke away in 1956 only to become affiliated with the National Independence Party in 1957, serving as Party Secretary, and subsequently leader. As Leader in 1956 Goldson was the Opposition’s lone voice in the House for over a dozen years—1961-1974. He also served as Deputy Party Leader of the United Democratic Party; which was a product of the NIP, the People’s Democratic Movement and the Liberal Party. 

Goldson resigned from the UDP in 1991 in opposition to the passage of the controversial Maritime Areas Act. And we all know, whenever he broke away—he started his party. Well, in true Goldson fashion he formed what would be his last political party—The National Alliance for Belizean Rights (NABR) And although (NABR) never ran a full slate of candidates in the 1993 general elections, Goldson’s last electoral fight came in that same year when he made up with the UDP, and ran as part of a UDP/NABR coalition. He won his seat in the Albert Division, even in his blind state. The UDP was victorious because of the NABR coalition.  Goldson, never lost Albert, in his 28-year run, even when his party lost. Albert was truly Goldson’s stomping grounds. His political stronghold.

But there was more to Goldson than just the politician. He used his ministerial platform in Immigration, Social Services and Labour to put in place policies that have and continue to shape Belizeans lives—among them, the Village Council system, he was a staunch advocate for people with disability and that lead, back then, to the establishment of a special department to address the needs of people with disabilities. He also advocated for women’s empowerment and felt that Belize needs patriotic citizens. Therefore, he used his political clout to open the doors of the now defunct Department of Patriotism. (Which some of you may remember was just over there to my left).     

In his 50’s Goldson found time to fulfill one of his many dreams—he went to London to read law.

This longest serving member of the House of Representatives, also had a few accolades in his life—in 1989 our International Airport was renamed the Philip S.W. Goldson International Airport, in 2001, he received the Order of Belize for his sterling contribution to patriotism and politics. Not to be outdone, he received (posthumously) in 2008, Belize’s highest honour, certainly worthy of his sacrifice—the Order of National Hero. 

He died on October 3, 2001 after a long illness.


I had the opportunity to cover his funeral service for Channel 5 and remembered as if it were yesterday, a hot afternoon, a packed Holy Redeemer Cathedral, with throngs of onlookers as the BDF band which lead his state funeral to the Lord’s Ridge Cemetery—played on.

That afternoon, a politician who never enriched himself, who wanted freedom for his people and who exemplified love of country--literally faded into the beautiful Belizean sunset. 

Philip Stanley Wilberforce Goldson—may his soul continue to rest in peace and rise in glory.

Sources for Philip Goldson’s Biography:
Williams Ann-Marie, Channel 5 Television interviews: 1993, 1995, 1998, 2001, 2003 & 2008
Encalada Nigel