The local legal fraternity has been thrown into deep mourning following the death of retired Governor General Sir Clifford Husbands last night at age 91.
The former head of state reportedly died at his Mount Stanfast, St James residence around 11:30 p.m.
Sir Clifford, who was one of Barbados’ leading legal luminaries, became the island’s sixth and longest serving Governor General, having assumed office on June 1, 1996 until his retirement on October 31, 2011.
Today former Chief Justice Sir David Simmons reacted with shock to the news of Sir Clifford’s death.
“I am quite saddened because I knew Sir Clifford quite well and his family. He had an outstanding legal career. First, in the Eastern Caribbean and then here in Barbados where he was the Director of Public Prosecutions,” Sir David said.
“He brought to that office great dignity, skill, and a profound legal understanding of criminal law. He was always very prompt, courteous and respectful of protocol and etiquette,” he added.
Sir David also recalled that of the 33 murder cases he was involved in, Sir Clifford would have appeared against him as DPP in at least half of them.
“What struck me then and has lived with me since is that he was offering leadership to other counsel in that department by taking on murder cases himself and doing the difficult ones,” Sir David told Barbados TODAY.
Before his appointment as DPP, Sir Clifford had served as a legal draftsman from 1960 to 1963 and later served as an assistant to the Attorney General from 1963 until 1967.
During the course of his illustrious legal career, Sir Clifford also served in several Caribbean countries, including Anguilla, Antigua, Grenada, Montserrat, St Kitts and Nevis.
He also served as a Supreme Court judge and Justice of Appeal at home in Barbados, where he also appointed chair of the local Privy Council before acceding to the position of head of state.
“When I was Attorney General between 1994 and 2001, I interacted with him as a member of the local Privy Council, which he chaired. He always brought to that body a seriousness, a sense of responsibility and he gave again excellent leadership to the Privy Council when I served on it,” Sir David said.
He also recalled that as chairman of the steering committee on reform of the local penal system, Sir Clifford had produced “an excellent report” that led to the enactment of the Penal System Reform Act in 1998, which introduced non-custodial punishments, such as community service and suspended sentences for offenders.
Looking back at his life’s work, Sir David said he will forever remember Sir Clifford as one who was “a stickler for doing the right thing” and “the epitome of professionalism and rectitude” even though he said Sir Clifford he had a great sense of humour.
“He would have us in stitches from time to time,” Sir David recalled.
Prominent attorney Sir Richard Cheltenham, QC, also described the late head of state as “a stickler for excellence” who “insisted on propriety of dress, manners and speech”.
“On one occasion I appeared before him and he called a halt to the proceedings and asked for the Oxford dictionary. Only when he was satisfied that my use of the word ‘disimprove’ was correct, did he nod his head and smile, allowing the proceedings to continue,” Sir Richard recalled while agreeing with Sir David that Sir Clifford had “a good sense of humour”.
In his tribute, Queen’s Counsel Elliott Mottley described Sir Clifford as “a gentleman, scholar, and a friend with an amazingly dry sense of humour”.
Mottley said his memories of late Governor General go back to Tudor Bridge, St Michael and Sir Clifford’s courtship of Ruby Parris, who later became his wife and has since predeceased him.
“It was with sadness that I learnt of his illness and passing. Sir Clifford upheld the highest traditions of the Bar. As Director of Public Prosecutions, he understood that the role of a prosecutor was as a minister of justice to place the evidence before the jury and leave it to them to render their verdict and it was not to press for a conviction.
“As a judge he was firm, but none the lest courteous to the Bar and to litigants.
“He was the embodiment of the majesty of the law and ensured that the lawyers who appeared in his court conducted themselves in a manner in keeping with the highest traditions of the Bar,” Mottley said, adding that “as Governor General he carried out the duties with the dignity usually associated with that office”.
The senior attorney added that Barbados will miss him and his counsel.
Sir Clifford leaves to mourn his children, Laura, Sandra and Anthony, as well as members of his extended family.