Learie Constantine

Learie Constantine

Learie Constantine, the son of a test cricketer, was born at Diego Martin, Trinidad, on 21st September, 1901. He worked in a solicitor's office before beginning a career in cricket. He made his test debut while touring England in 1928. The following year Constantine moved to England and joined the Nelson team in the Lancashire Cricket League.

Constantine became captain of the West Indies and led the team to their first victory in a test match in 1930. He also played an important role in West Indies winning the series against England in 1934-35. After retiring from test cricket he became a commentator for the British Broadcasting Corporation.

During the Second World War Constantine worked as a welfare officer for the labour ministry. Based in Liverpool his main responsibility was to help West Indian immigrants find employment in Britain. In 1943 Constantine was refused service in a British hotel because of his colour. He took the owners of the hotel to court and won his case. Later he wrote Colour Bar (1954), with his friend, C. L. R. James. The book dealt with the subject of racial prejudice in Britain.

After studying law Constantine gained entrance to the English bar in 1954. Later he returned to Trinidad where he became involved in politics. A member of the People's National Movement, he served in the government as minister of community works and utilities. When Trinidad gained independence he became his country's first high commissioner to London.

In 1964 resigned as high commissioner but stayed in Britain where he held several important positions. This included being governor of the BBC, a member of the Race Relations Board and the Sports Council. In 1969 Constantine became the first person of African descent to gain a life peerage.

Learie Constantine died of lung cancer in Hampstead, London, on 1st July, 1971.