Famed senior civil servant and Lodge School alumnus Major Sam Headley, declared the “godfather” of the country’s heavy industry leader, is to be memorialised by a scholarship funded by fellow old scholar Ralph Bizzy Williams.
As the industrialist broke down in frequent sobs, the founder and chairman of Williams Industries Inc. made the announcement in praising Major Headley’s commitment to racial unity after overcoming deep racial prejudice in 1947 to become The Lodge’s first black head boy against strong objection by his white peers.
It was as permanent secretary for defence and security in a newly independent Barbados that Headley, who died on April 18, at age 89, backed Williams, a white man, in the creation of his firm against opposition in some Government circles.
Williams declared: “In his memory, for as long as Williams Industries exists, a top priority will be the funding of the Major Sam Headley Scholarship at The Lodge School, to provide funding for disadvantaged students who seek to get a proper education.”
The Chapel at Coral Ridge Memorial Gardens was packed to capacity, as hundreds gathered to say their final farewell to Major Headley and saluted his contribution as Harrison College teacher and national security official.
Acting Governor General Sir Kenneth Hewitt, a former student of Major Headley, was among those that gathered to reflect on the life of the man who came from humble beginnings, to achieving many accomplishments that have been written on history’s page.
Close friend Williams described Major Headley’s instrumental role in helping to establish his firm, Structural Systems, through making it possible for him to put a business proposal to then Prime Minister Errol Barrow.
“That meeting organized by my family’s colour-blind friend, Major Sam Headley, was the real beginning of the creation of well paid employment opportunities for over 1000 people across the Caribbean. Over 500 of them now being shareholders,” Williams said.
Major Headley never asked for anything in return for the contribution he made to the building of the business, he declared.
As far as Headley was concerned, he was simply looking after the interest of Barbadians, he added.
Delivering the eulogy, son Dr Sam Headley said one of his father’s most meaningful honours was his selection as The Lodge School’s first black senior prefect, an event that left an indelible mark on him.
Dr Headley said: “By whatever metric you use, it is clear that Daddy was an outstanding Barbadian. Like many others before him, he came from very humbled beginnings, but he overcame these obstacles to make a meaningful contribution to this country.
“His greatest quality was his ability to relate to people of all walks of life; from the highest official in the land, to the ordinary citizens.”
While at The Lodge School, Headley joined the Cadet Corps, which ultimately paved the way for his involvement with the Barbados Regiment.
As a student, the scholar was chosen to be on the first Barbados School Boys’ team, which toured British Guiana.
Upon leaving The Lodge, he earned a scholarship to attend Codrington College, where he completed his Undergraduate Degree with honours in the Classics, Ancient History and Modern Philosophy.
After he completed his degree, Major Headley was hired as an Assistant Master at Harrison College, where he worked for 16 years teaching Latin, Greek and English.
Dr Headley said: “As a teacher at Harrison College, he had a major impact on the lives of many students. He wore many hats at Harrison College, serving as a guidance counselor, the Commander of both the Barbados and Harrison College Cadet Corps, and he was a Dean’s Master, in addition to teaching his classes in the classroom.
“Daddy was instrumental in arranging exchange programmes for cadets to Canada and other Caribbean territories, between the years of 1963 and 1968.”
Just prior to Independence in 1966, Major Headley was appointed as the first Government Security Officer, which later led to his appointment as a Permanent Secretary in the Division of Defence and Security.
During his tenure there, Major Headley was instrumental in the creation of the Barbados Coast Guard in 1972. He also acted as Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs. And in 1994, he retired from the Public Service after 44 years of service.
“For his commitment to the country, he was awarded the Queen’s Jubilee Medal, the Errol Barrow Award, and the Gold Crown of Merit,” he said.
Apart from his work in government, Major Headley also managed a rural gas station. He also tried his hand at real estate where he attempted to help nationals living abroad to find homes in Barbados.
“Assisting in the development of others was something that characterized his life. I repeat, he has truly made a significant contribution to this country,” Dr Headley said.
Members of the Barbados Coast Guard, Barbados Regiment and the Government Security Guards participated in the service and burial, which also took place at the Gardens. Students and teachers of The Lodge School delivered a tribute in song before the start of the service.
Officiating Minister Rev. Suzanne Ellis encouraged the mourners to think about what would be said about their lives when they die.
Reverend Ellis said that although the funeral service was a difficult and painful time, she urged the congregation to remember that death was not the end, but the gate to eternal life.
Reverend Ellis said: “So this morning as we gather to give God thanks and praise for the life and witness of our brother, we do so with the understanding and with the assurance, that God is present with us.
“For he has promised, wherever two or three have gathered in his name, he is with us. And he has promised ‘I am with you always even to the end of time’.”