SAINT VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES
ROBERT MILTON CATO
Researched Article by Sir Godfrey Gregg
By the time Robert Milton Cato became Chief Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines in 1967, he had obtained a great deal of experience about government, management, and the public service, by holding important positions on a number Boards and civic organizations, and from the period of his leadership of the opposition.
Born on June 3rd, 1915, Mr. Cato won a government scholarship and attended the St. Vincent Grammar School from 1928 to 1933. On leaving school, the young Cato was articled to a Barrister-at-law in Kingstown and thus began his career in law. Before going on to the Middle Temple in 1945, however, he joined the First Canadian Army, attained the rank of Sergeant and saw active service in France, Belgium, Holland, and Germany.
By the way, Mr. Cato proceeded to England and to law school. He was called to the Bar, Middle Temple in 1948. On his return home, he went into private practice; at the same time, he identified himself with the civic and political aspirations of Vincentians and made no small contribution to the growth and development of the island even before he emerged as a politician. He was Chairman of the Kingstown Town Board in 1952 and a member thereof from 1955 to 1959. He served also as Chairman of the Labour Advisory Board, and as a member of the Public Service Commission and the Central Housing and Planning Authority. He was an elected representative of St. Vincent in the short-lived West Indies Federal Parliament, and Chairman of the Regional Development Agency. A longtime supporter of track and field, Mr. Cato was President of the St. Vincent Cricket Association and a member of the Windward Islands and West Indies Crickets Boards of Control.
Elected to the office of Chief Minister on May 19th, 1967, as head of the St. Vincent Labour Party, Mr. Cato did much to improve the economic standing of the island. He was St. Vincent’s first Premier on the island’s entry to Statehood on October 27th, 1969. He was out of government during the period 1972 to 1974 following his party’s defeat in the famous 6-6-2 generally elections of 1972.
In December 1974, the Labour Party was re-elected to office and Mr. Cato quickly set about introducing an upward trend in the economy and ensuring an element of general confidence at home and abroad in the integrity of the state.
Mr. Cato’s longtime wife and a companion were Lucy-Ann Alexandra who quietly and without much fuss, made her modest but significant contribution to the pursuit of the dream of a better St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Mrs. Cato served on the St. Vincent Infant Welfare Maternity League, the Thompson Home Committee and the St. Vincent Music Council.
In 1978 Mr. Cato invited the general public to submit proposals for incorporation in an Independence Constitution and in September of that year, he led a delegation to London for a Constitutional Conference as preparatory to taking St. Vincent into full independence. When St. Vincent attained political independence on October 27th, 1979, Mr. Cato had achieved tow enviable firsts: St. Vincent’s first Premier and its first Prime Minister.
Mr. Cato the longtime representative of the West St. George Constituency, retired from active politics following his party’s defeat in the 1984 general elections. He died on February 10th, 1997. His hope was for unity in Vincentian society and a brighter future for the people. The Kingstown General Hospital was re-named in his honour in October 2000. Robert Milton Cato, the father of independence.