The Miami Herald
Fri, Apr. 16, 2004
Anguilla secession leader is mourned

About 1,000 mourners attend the funeral of Jeremiah Gumbs, whose action in 1967 is credited with helping Anguilla toward independence.

THE VALLEY, Anguilla - (AP) -- Hundreds flocked to Thursday's funeral for Jeremiah Gumbs, a hotel owner who went before the United Nations in 1967 to challenge Britain's proposal to combine the governments of Anguilla and St. Kitts and Nevis.

Among those attending the service were the island's Gov. Peter Johnstone, Chief Minister Osbourne Fleming and other members of the executive council. Gumbs died last week. He was 91.

''His relentless stand for self-determination of the people of Anguilla and the selfless and tireless efforts inspired all Anguillans and served as the backbone of the freedom movement,'' his son Clyde Gumbs said in a eulogy.

Local banks, government offices and businesses closed Thursday afternoon to allow islanders to attend the service at St. Mary's Anglican Church.

About 1,000 mourners watched as members of the Royal Anguilla Police Force carried Gumbs' casket to a vault where his wife, Lydia, was interred in 2002.

Like many on this tiny Caribbean island, Gumbs long felt the island was neglected as a British colony. He is best known for arguing before the United Nations that the island's needs wouldn't be fairly represented within a proposed tri-island plan because it was far from the two other, larger islands of St. Kitts and Nevis.

Anguilla -- with about 40 square miles and nearly 13,000 residents -- is separated from the two other islands by St. Martin, St. Barthelemy, Saba and St. Eustatius.

Anguilla held a special referendum on July 11, 1967, and overwhelmingly chose secession, 1,813-5. Britain initially refused to recognize the referendum and sent troops to suppress the movement in 1969, but two years later granted the island status as a self-governing British territory, which it remains today.

Known in later years by a flowing white beard that ran down his chest, Gumbs was regarded as a hero and served as Anguilla's ''roving ambassador'' from 1967-1969.

He was born in Anguilla in 1913 as the youngest of nine children to a fisherman father and baker mother. At age 25, he moved to New York City to take dentistry classes but was drafted into the U.S. military to serve in World War II. After being granted American citizenship, Gumbs married and moved back to Anguilla.

In 1962, he and his wife opened some rooms which would later become the Rendezvous Bay Hotel. Gumbs ran the hotel until the late-1990s.