January 2024 Volume 20

TRIBUTE TO Prof. WINSTON George MENDES DAVIDSON

Amb. G. Anthony Hylton, CD, MP
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I am among the privileged few allowed to publicly pay tribute to a remarkable Jamaican, a steadfast comrade, a patriot, and an exceptional human being that was, Prof. Winston George Mendes Davidson, known to most as “Winty”.

Today, I am speaking for many of his friends and colleagues who could not be here today; and for some who are here but could not be accommodated on today’s program, and yet others who prefer to remain silent, and in so doing preserve their private memories of the man affectionately called Winty.

I must include in that number, a dear and special friend to Winty over many decades, The Most Honourable Portia Simpson Miller, who is not here today, not by choice, but by necessity. We wish her God’s continued blessings.

Winty’s life was never destined to be a mere footnote in some long narrative about the vicissitudes of life, with its many twists and turns. His was a consequential life, lived with intention and purpose. So we have reasons to celebrate today, and not simply to mourn his passing.

To hear his siblings tell it, he was destined to be great as a result of his family lineage and his birth in the community of Franklin Town where he was nurtured by a close-knit family and community.

To hear it from Winty himself, his destiny was shaped and nurtured in the hallowed halls of Kingston College, where his prodigious talents were quickly discovered, nurtured and honed, as a baritone in the formidable KC Choir, or as a valued member of the Manning Cup & Colts teams of ‘64 (previously mentioned), and as an academically gifted student.

When I returned to Jamaica at the beginning of the 1990’s, Winty’s reputation as a medical doctor and political activist in the 1970’s had been long established, and he had already shifted focus away from retail politics and re-focused his energies on an academic career, in which research and the quest for scientific truth was his new tool.

As he would tell it, he was to become more “evidence based, and data driven” in his approach to the social, political, geopolitical and economic issues that still animated his life’s work. He had not lost any of the passion and fervor, for issues of social justice and equality that he campaigned for in the 70’s up to the 1980 parliamentary elections. He had simply shifted focus, including adopting Judaism as his religion.

It was this refocused Winty that I was to become acquainted with in the period 2006 until his passing a few days ago.

Our friendship blossomed when he secured the presence of the Kingston College choir at my wedding and his accompaniment as the soloist, which earned for him a lifelong friendship with my wife and two new patients.

This newly minted friendship was to deepen shortly thereafter, when both he and I were deputed by the Most Honorable Portia Simpson Miller, then Opposition Leader, to lead the team of volunteers (many of whom are here today) which was charged to deliver for the Peoples National Party its Progressive Agenda. The near two-and-a-half years that it took to deliver the document was both intense and revealing.

I learned a great deal about and from Winty during this testy, nerve wracking, yet rewarding period.

I witnessed Winty’s trademark capacity for hard, sustained and quality work;

His prodigious recall of the Party’s history and his insistence on discipline and the value of rigor in unearthing data to support a particular policy option was admirable;

I saw first- hand his principled and dogged approach in putting forward arguments in support of economic and social justice for our children, our women and the poor;

I also learned of his commitment to integrity in intellectual pursuit, as he would often say, “you can trust this or that piece of evidence, because its source was intellectually honest”;

And yes, you could win an argument with Winty, as long as you had superior data and could provide the evidence when called upon to do so;

His policy choices were consistent with the stories he told me about first entering Trench Town or Greenwich Town as a young medic, at the invitation of Portia (as she then was), to treat the children with various maladies and diseases;

His word was his bond, and he trusted those he believed in.

In government during the period 2012-2016, Winty was a trusted advisor to me and others in the Cabinet, including the Most Honourable Prime Minister, Portia Simpson Miller, on a range of issues, not limited to public health or health technology.

Special mention must be made here of his work at the Bureau of Standard as the Chairman of the standard body of Jamaica. I wish to state publicly that his accomplishment at the Bureau of Standard during the period remains a high point for production and productivity. So much so, that he was invited back to serve on various committees at the Bureau under the current administration. When the history of the Bureau comes to be written, favourable mention will be made of Prof. Winston Davidson’s signal contribution.

Winty’s capacity for deep and integrated analysis, combined with his business acumen, was demonstrated in his development of the medical online services he titled ‘Doctor on Call’.

He expended a great deal of energy, time and resources in developing the platform and in ensuring its efficiency, security and integrity. But, as he confided in me, his great effort was aimed largely at ensuring that the poor could access quality medical care at affordable prices. He rejoiced in the fact that this new technology would, in time, deliver public health for the broad masses of people.

We will be watching to see whether he labored in that vineyard in vain!

I could not close this tribute to Winty without affirming the love and pride he had for his family. This he expressed from the early days of our friendship, during our several encounters, and nearing the end of his life.

On behalf of my family, Yodit and Nyle, I give heart-felt condolences to his wife Dr. Sonia Davidson and all the children, grandchildren, as well to his siblings, nieces, nephews, cousins and friends.

I close with the words of Martin Luther King, Jr.

“ We need leaders not in love with money

But in Love with Justice.

Not in Love with publicity

But in Love with humanity”

Prof. Wintson George Mendes Davidson’s life epitomized these words, and for this I will be forever grateful that our paths crossed and he was my mentor, collaborator and friend.

Walk good Winty, until we meet again! Fortis Forever!!

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