The Most Exalted Order of the National Hero is an Antiguan and Barbudan order of chivalry recognising pre-eminently distinguished service to Antigua and Barbuda or to humanity at large. We present our current six National Heroes.
This former slave, Prince Klass, also known as King Court, is credited with organising the 1736 rebellion which sought to free all slaves. However the plot was unsuccessful, as fellow slaves informed of their plans, and the ring leaders, Prince Klass included, were executed. It has been said that this African slave was of royal heritage. A monument stands on Independence Drive in his honour. Its colours symbolise the black men who were killed for their rebellious attempt and the blood that was shed.
The monument was designed by Barry Davis, while Sir. Reginal Samuel, designer of the National Flag, fashioned the statue.
Sir Vere Cornwall Bird Sr. was born on 9th December, 1910. He was Antigua and Barbuda’s only Chief Minister, first Premier, and first Prime Minister from 1981 to 1994. He was one of the founding members of the Antigua Trades and Labour Union (ATLU), and its second president. He also formed the Antigua Labour Party (ALP).
He achieved national acclaim politically for the first time when he was elected to the colonial legislature in 1945. Bird was unique from other West Indian politicians, lacking in any formal education except primary schooling. He attended the St. John’s Boys School, now known as the T.N. Kirnon Primary School. He was an officer in the Salvation Army for two years interspersing his interests in trade unionism and politics. He gave up the Salvation Army because he saw the way the land owners were treating the local black Antiguans and Barbudans; and decided to leave his post to fight for the freedom of his people, which he succeeded in doing. Sir Vere was known for his fierce patriotism, and dedication to ensuring fair wages and working conditions for the poor classes.
In 1985 Antigua and Barbuda’s international airport, which was first named Coolidge, was renamed V.C. Bird International Airport in his honour. A statue, in his likeness, can be seen outside the St. John’s Public Market Complex.
Sir Vere died on 28th June, 1999, and was the first National Hero to be interred at the National Heroes Park. He will always be affectionately remembered as “Father of the Nation, Papa Bird, and Papa VC”.
The nation’s sole female National Hero, Dame Georgiana ‘Nellie’ Robinson, was born on 7th December, 1880 and died on 29th April, 1972. Her earliest days were spent on Newgate Street, St. John’s before moving to the US, where she spent most of her childhood. There she worked as a child nurse, house worker, and governess from age 13 years. She moved back to Antigua in 1894 and continued her education at the Coke College on East Street, and at the age of 18, began teaching her siblings, and other children. This was the start of the Thomas Oliver Robinson (TOR) Memorial School, which still educates the nation’s children today.
The TOR Memorial was the only mixed (co-educational) school on island at that time. “Miss Rob”, as she was called, “broke down colour and class barriers, believing that all children should have access to learning”. She continued teaching for the next 57 years, eventually retiring in 1955. This school, which she founded, has produced some of the nation’s finest citizens.
Sir Isaac Vivian Alexander Richards, KNH, KCN, OBE, is a former West Indian cricketer…popularly known as Viv. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest batsmen of all time, especially in the One Day International (ODI) format of the game. Richards was voted one of the five Cricketers of the Century in 2000, by a 100-member panel of experts, along with Sir Donald Bradman, Sir Garfield Sobers, Sir Jack Hobbs and Shane Warne. In February 2002, Richards was judged by Wisden Cricketers’ Almanac to have played the best ODI innings. In December 2002, he was chosen by Wisden as the greatest ODI batsman, as well as the third greatest Test batsman ever, after Sir Donald Bradman and Sachin Tendulkar. Sir Viv is one of our National Heroes.
Sir Viv’s cricketing career came to an end in the 1990s, but he continues to be recognised worldwide for his cricketing attributes. He retired from Test cricket as the third most successful captain of the West Indies team. In 1994, he was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services to Cricket. He was also knighted in 1999 for his contribution to Cricket, and became the fourth National Hero on 1st November, 2006. Our National Stadium is named in his honour.
Sir George Herbert Walter became the nation’s fifth Hero on 1st November, 2008 following his death on 4th March that year. Sir George served as the second Premier of Antigua and Barbuda from 1972 to 1976. He was also leader of the Progressive Labour Movement (PLM). Also noteworthy are his more than 40 years of service in the trade union and politics movements in Antigua and Barbuda.
His contributions to the nation and in the House of Representatives have been described as being in a class of their own. The Social Security Act, the Labour Code that was copied in every Caribbean territory, the Representation of the People’s Act, and the founding of the Antigua & Barbuda Development Bank were all the work of his PLM government.
Sir Lester Bryant Bird is an heroic figure in the country’s recent history, pointing out that arguably he has made the second largest contribution to the socio-economic advancement of Antigua and Barbuda.
He was an outstanding athlete during his youth – in cricket and football, and he earned his spurs in high and long jump. He subsequently graduated from Grays Inn, London, as a lawyer before returning to Antigua.
Sir Lester has served the nation in excess of 40 years as a Parliamentarian, including 18 as deputy Prime Minister and 10 as Prime Minister. He is our country’s sixth National Hero.