Neville Gallimore, CD, JP, MD, LLD (Hon), fondly known as “Doc,” was a Jamaican physician, public servant, and advocate for the cause of Christian education, who spotlighted the love of God, both in his native Jamaica and internationally. He was the son of one of the early Adventist pioneers in Jamaica and became the first Adventist politician to serve in the Jamaican parliament, as well as a diplomat, and he laid groundwork for other Adventists to engage in public service. He was an outstanding Adventist Jamaican politician and diplomat.
Born at Bethany, Alexander, St. Ann, on January 21, 1939, Gallimore was the youngest son of veteran parliamentarian Gideon Whitefield Aabuthnott-Gallimore and his wife, Myrtle Eloise Binn-Gallimore, herself a long-serving councilor for the St. Ann Parish Council. St. Ann is the parish that also produced world renowned cultural icons Marcus Garvey and Bob Marley, as well as the father of Pamela Harris, the first female Vice President of the United States. In this stimulating milieu, in particular on the St. D’Acre farm and the surrounding community, Dr. Gallimore was known for the slogan: “God first, Jamaica second, and my party third.”1
Neville Gallimore was an alumnus of West Indies College (now Northern Caribbean University), Mandeville, Jamaica, and Pacific Union College in Angwin, California, before studying medicine. As a medical student, he chose the Universidad Autonoma de Guadalajara in Mexico to “avoid the burden of student debt.”2
Public Service as a Second-generation Politician - Jamaica
Soon after his return to Jamaica, his father resigned from representative politics and the 28-year-old Neville was drafted by the Jamaica Labor Party to enter the race for the South West St. Ann seat. Beginning with the 1967 election, he distinguished himself as the youngest member of parliament and won in seven consecutive campaigns, becoming the longest serving rural MP in Jamaica. After his first lost in 1997, ending his 31 unbroken years as an elected member of parliament serving the interests of the farming communities which he represented, he did not seek reelect.3
During his tenure as a member of parliament, he served as minister of state in the Ministry of Foreign/External Affairs (later called the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade), 1980-1984. Thereafter, he held two cabinet portfolios, first as minister of Social Security (now Ministry of Labor and Social Security), 1984-1986; then as minister of education, 1986-1989. As minister of Social Security, he championed the introduction of the food stamp program which gave valuable nutritional support to pregnant women, senior citizens, and needy persons. As minister of education, he founded the National Assessment Program, a precursor to the phasing out of the Common Entrance Examination, which led to the establishment of the Grade Six Achievement Test which leveled the playing field for primary-age students across Jamaica. He also founded the University Council of Jamaica, Jamaica’s accreditation body for tertiary education. Gallimore instituted the Secondary School Textbook Program which provided books for students who were reading below their grade level. He cofounded the Aboukir High School and Institute to benefit persons from St. Ann and neighboring parishes who were not accommodated within the mainstream school system by supplementing their education at minimal or no cost to them.4
Public Service as a Diplomat - International Relations
During his years in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Gallimore represented Jamaica at the United Nations and the Organization of American States, as well as at many overseas forums, particularly in Latin America and the Caribbean. As a parliamentary secretary in the Ministry of External Affairs, at age 30, he delivered Jamaica’s policy speech at the United Nations in 1969 and 1970. When the Jamaica Labor Party was returned to power in 1980, he was appointed the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade. His first major international intervention was in Grenada in 1983 in the aftermath of the socialist revolution when Prime Minister Maurice Bishop and members of his cabinet were assassinated and the United States and Caribbean forces were deployed to restore law and order.
In 1986, although he was no longer in the Foreign Affairs Ministry, his special diplomatic skills were called upon to help resolve the constitutional crisis in Haiti by persuading Jean-Claude Duvalier, the president of Haiti (1971-1986), also known as “Baby Doc,” to resign and go into exile. Again, in 1988, he was sent to Haiti to persuade strongman General Henri Namphy, then president of Haiti, to step down to make way for free elections in that country.
In acknowledgement of his years of sterling service, Dr. Gallimore was awarded the national honor of Commander of the Order of Distinction (CD) by the Jamaican government in 1987. The government of Columbia also awarded him the Order of the Nation (ON), one of the highest honors. He also received honorary degrees from Andrews University (1987) and the Northern Caribbean University (2010), where he founded the Gallimore Scholarship Fund and, up to the time of his death, was the longest servicing member of its board of governors.
Subsequent to his retirement in 1997, Gallimore continued his service to the community as a patron of Aboukir High School and Institute and the Aabuthnott-Gallimore High School. He also developed his St. D’Acre farm into a mini-zoo at which he hosted tours for students and others. Moreover, he continued to volunteer for community service, setting an example for generations to follow.
Death and Legacy
In keeping with his usual consideration for others, prior to his passing at 81 years, he instructed his family that, given the public health risks associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, no funeral service should be held. When he passed on May 28, 2020, his wish was granted when his family declined the offer of a well-deserved official funeral for him. The incumbent prime minister of Jamaica, Andrew Holness, himself a Seventh-day Adventist, said in a tribute of Dr. Gallimore: “He was a spiritual pioneer who had a passion for his God and his people. He was a faithful and
devout Sabbath keeper, being an active member of the Seventh-day Adventist faith, and never attended any political functions on his Sabbath.”5
In his tribute to Dr. Gallimore, the president of the Jamaica Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Pastor Everett E. Brown, said, among other things: “He was a strident steward and analytical apologist of the Advent faith.”6
Dr. Neville Gallimore is survived by his wife, Angela Gallimore, four children, eleven grand- children, and two great grandchildren.
“Dr. Neville Gallimore, a people’s man and nice person.” Jamaica Observer, June 1, 2020. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/editorial/mr-neville-gallimore-a-.
Funeral Booklet, Tribute, The Most Hon. Andrew Michael Holness, ON, MP. “In Loving Memory of Dr. Neville Gallimore, CD.” January 21, 1939-May 28, 2020.
“ ‘The end of an era’: Sir Patrick remembers Dr. Gallimore as a patriot who passionately loved his country.” Jamaica Gleaner June 1, 2000. http://jamaica-gleaner.com/print/783164.
Mention of “Sir Patrick” in the article’s caption refers to the sitting Governor General of Jamaica, Sir Patrick Allen, himself a Seventh-day Adventist, who once served as president of the Adventist church’s Central Jamaica Conference and the West Indies Union Conference, respectively; “ ‘The end of an era’: Sir Patrick remembers Dr. Gallimore as a patriot who passionately loved his country,” Jamaica Gleaner June 1, 2000; http://jamaica-gleaner.com/print/783164.↩
Another advantage of attending medical school in Mexico was the acquisition of a second language which served Dr. Gallimore well in his role as a diplomat to Spanish-speaking countries; Author’s personal Interview with Verna “Pansy” Ricketts, November 14, 2020.↩
Author’s personal Interview with Verna “Pansy” Ricketts, November 14, 2020; Dr. Gallimore also inspired his son, Andrew, to too enter representative politics as a member of parliament. In so doing, Andrew became a third-generation politician having served two terms representing the people of West Rural St. Andrew, 2002-2011.↩
“Dr. Neville Gallimore, a people’s man and nice person,” Jamaica Observer, June 1, 2020, http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/editorial/mr-neville-gallimore-a-.↩
Funeral Booklet, Tribute, The Most Hon. Andrew Michael Holness, ON, MP., “In Loving Memory of Dr. Neville Gallimore, CD,” January 21, 1939-May 28, 2020: 5.↩
Funeral Booklet, Tribute, Pastor Everett E. Brown, CD, JP., Op. Cit., 11.↩