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2006-01-03 15:38:57

George Mackey Dies At 67

George Mackey, a former Progressive Liberal Party Cabinet Minister and longtime member of parliament for Fox Hill, died at Doctors Hospital on Monday.

"The Bahamas has seen the passing of a major formative figure in its life as a country," said Prime Minister Perry Christie of Mr. Mackey's death.

The former MP died after a two-year battle with cancer.

Speaking to reporters at a press conference in Fox Hill, present MP for the area and Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Public Service Fred Mitchell said a light had one out in Fox Hill.

Minister Mitchell described Mr. Mackey as a hero of Fox Hill and a man of the people who toiled tirelessly for them.

"I feel a great sense of personal loss," said the minister, who witnessed the passing of his predecessor.

Mr. Mackey served as Minister of Housing and National Insurance in the cabinet of the late prime minister, Sir Lynden Pindling.

He was also a past chairman of the PLP and a repeat chairman of the party's convention and was credited with years of successful convention planning.

"It's a very sad day in the life of the PLP," said PLP Chairman Raynard Rigby, who attended the Fox Hill press conference.

"Mr. Mackey served as convention chairman for 21 years. He was the longest serving convention chairman in our party's history. He was the party's historian and he single-handedly transformed our headquarters to showcase the party's history and he created an historical garden as part of our living history."

Eric Wilmott, one of Mr. Mackey's childhood friends, said he has fond memories.

"He was a very pleasant person," Mr. Wilmott recalled.

"He had that knack for mixing with anybody. Party meant nothing to him and he had that knack for working. Early in the morning around 6:30 when people were sleeping he was on this park, when we were rebuilding it, finding something to do. He was full of advice, always giving good advice."

In a statement issued to the press shortly after Mr. Mackey's death, Prime Minister Christie said the life and times of George Mackey illuminated the process of building The Bahamas into the proud nation it is today.

Prime Minister Christie, who served with Mr. Mackey in the Pindling Cabinet, noted that the former MP recently brought the "positive touch" of an elder statesman to the process of national transformation now underway.

At the time of his death, Mr. Mackey served as chairman of the Antiquities Monuments and Museum Corporation, co-chair of the Nassau Redevelopment Association and was a key force behind the redevelopment plans for Bay Street and downtown Nassau.

"I recall Mr. Mackey's invaluable work, not only as chairman of the Progressive Liberal Party and as a member of parliament, but his leading and energetic role in guiding the party back to office in 2002, for which he shall always be remembered," the prime minister's statement said.

"The Bahamas has benefited from the help of a statesman of the highest order and we shall honour his memory."

Mr. Rigby, meanwhile, said Mr. Mackey's exemplary record in public life spanning 30 years will be remembered and memorialized by the PLP.

"He was a true patriot," he said. "He believed in The Bahamas. He loved and believed in Fox Hill and the people of the village. His brand of politics transcended the ordinary party lines. He used his passion and vision for a better Bahamas to reach out to those who may not usually be identified as PLP supporters."

Mr. Mackey was first elected to parliament in the general election of 1972 for the St. Michael's constituency. He was re-elected there in 1977.

On June 19, 1982, he was elected as the member of parliament for Fox Hill, and on June 27 was appointed minister of Housing and National Insurance. He served until his retirement from elective politics in 1997.

Mr. Mackey was also a lifelong member of St. Anne's Anglican Church and was the founding president of the St. Anne's Branch of the Anglican Young People's Association.

The former Fox Hill MP is survived by his wife, Betty; daughters Phaedra and Michelle and grandsons, Devon and Dominic.

Funeral arrangements will be announced later, but Minister Mitchell urged all friends of Mr. Mackey to attend a previously set national service of honour and thanksgiving for his life, which will take place on Thursday at 7:30pm at St. Paul's Baptist Church in Fox Hill.

By: Candia Dames, The Bahama Journal

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