V.C. Bird Day
History of V.C. Bird Day
Vere Cornwall Bird was born on December 9, 1910, in the town of St. John’s, the capital of Antigua and Barbuda. Bird’s family was one of humble means, residing in a low-income neighborhood. Growing up, he was exposed to his fellow citizens’ struggles and indignities, inspiring him to pursue a career as an activist and politician. In 1939 he became an executive member of the Antigua Trades and Labor Union (A.T.L.U.), and by 1943, he was President of the union. Bird led the fight for increased wages and improved working conditions, steering the A.T.L.U. into electoral politics for the first time in 1946. Following the introduction of universal adult suffrage and the ministerial system to Antigua and Barbuda in the 1950s, Bird was granted the portfolio of trade and production, rising to the rank of Chief Minister in 1960.
Bird was relegated to political exile in 1971, following the loss of the government to the newly formed Progressive Labor Movement party (P.L.M.) Still, he returned in 1976 with a bang, regaining the government and maintaining control until 1980, when he won the election on the campaign pledge of securing independence for Antigua and Barbuda. A year later, the Caribbean nation attained independence from the British, and Bird became the first Prime Minister. He remained a prevalent figure throughout his term, leading his party to another election victory in 1984, winning all the Antiguan seats in the legislature.
Bird exited politics in 1994, having paved the way for his son Lester to inherit his office. The Bird family, labeled a dynasty by some, continued to dominate the political arena in Antigua long after their patriarch’s death in 1999. Today, Antiguans remember V.C. Bird as a hero and a great statesman.