Biography of Norman Washington Manley
Norman Washington Manley was born in Roxborough, Manchester, on July 4, 1839. He was the son of Magaret and Thomas Albert Manley. He attended Beckford & Smith High school. Since his youth, Norman Manley began to show hints of greatness when it came to sports and intelligence, hints which manifested themselves when Norman Manley attended Jamaica College. Norman Manley set records and gained national attention in the area of Track and Field and later as the Jamaican political leader.
Norman Manley was an exceptional athlete. His most impressive and memorable performance was a 10 second time in the 100-meter sprint in 1911. This record became known throughout Jamaica as “the even time.” His record stood for an astounding 41 years until Frank Hall broke it in 1952. That same year Norman Manley’s eldest son, Douglass Manley, eclipsed the record also.
Norman Manley’s athletic greatness continued through the 1912 Class 1 Championships. Between 1910 and 1912, his college team won two championships, mainly because of Norman Manley’s contributions. During the 1912 championship year, Norman Manley had another awe-inspiring performance in the 220 yard run. His time of 23 seconds flat was very comparable to the previous Olympic times in the 200 meters. He was without a doubt one of the fastest College men in the World.
Norman Manley went to study at Oxford University in 1914 after being awarded the Rhodes scholarship. The First World War broke out and he enlisted to become a gunner in the Royal Artillery and was eventually promoted to corporal. He was awarded the Military medal and went on after the war to study law in England. There he married his cousin Edna Swithenbank. They had two sons: Michael and Douglass. In 1922, Norman Manley returned to his homeland of Jamaica and became a much sought after lawyer. He holds the distinction of never losing a murder case he represented. By the late 1930s, a hostile air arose in Jamaica concerning taxes, labor strikes, and civil unrest. This would lead to Manley lending his aide to the workers and forming the People’s National Party.
Norman Manley founded the People’s National Party (PNP) in September 1938, and was elected its president for 31 consecutive years until his retirement. As president of the PNP, Norman Manley fought for Universal Adult Suffrage. Through the PNP, he became a representative for Jamaica in the Federation of the West Indies, a group of nations joined in an attempt to right some common problems. Norman Manley led the unprecedented movement to allow the people of Jamaica to vote on whether or not to remain in the federation. Once the people voted to leave the Federation, Norman Manley led the movement to draft a constitution so that Jamaica could become independent. He headed the committee that negotiated Jamaica’s independence from Great Britain. Once independence came, Norman Manley lost in the election to his cousin Alexander Bustamante of the Jamaica Labor Party, for the seat of prime minister. Norman Manley’s son, Michael, would later go on to become prime minister of Jamaica.
To this day, Norman Manley is known throughout Jamaica as the Right Excellent Norman Washington Manley. His birthday is celebrated in the country and so are his accomplishments. He is seen as the father of Jamaican politics and a leader in Jamaica’s independence. He created the multi-party system in Jamaica and made the needs of the people the focus of the government. Norman Manley passed away on September 2, 1969, but he will always be remembered.
I chose Norman Manley because of a family friend of mine. Mr. Roy Manley Sr. CPA is distantly related to Norman Manley. The family has a picture of him in their house and I vaguely remember them talking about him many years ago. His name peaked my interest and I wanted to learn more about their family history. After reading about this great man, what intrigued me most was his compassion for people and political power. These are both attributes I look up to and strive to attain.