Uriah Butler: Caribbean Nation Hero
The Caribbean Is One Nation.
TUBAL URIAH “BUZZ” BUTLER (1897-1977)
Tubal Uriah “Buzz” Butler was born in 1897 in Grenada where he received his primary education. During the First World War, he served in the British West Indian Regiment, under Captain Arthur Cipriani. Like most of his fellow soldiers, he idolized Cipriani. He returned to Grenada after the war, but moved to Trinidad in 1921, attracted by the flourishing oil industry with its plentiful jobs and relatively high wages. In 1929, he was injured in an industrial accident that left him permanently lame.
Butler himself, a member of the working class, embraced the labour movement and its cause wholeheartedly, joining Cipriani’s Trinidad Labour Party but leaving it in 1936 because he found it too moderate. In 1935, he led a 60 mile hunger march from the oil belt to Port-of-Spain, to highlight the workers’ demands; this was considered a direct challenge to Cipriani who advocated more constitutional methods of protest.
In 1936, Butler formed his own party, the British Empire Workers and Citizen Home Rule Party (BEWCHRP) and in 1937 organized a sitdown strike that was to prove a catalyst for the development of the labour movement in years to come. The demonstration was a peaceful one until the police tried to arrest Butler, sparking off a riot in which fourteen (14) people were killed and fifty-nine (59) injured. He was tried, convicted of sedition and sentenced to two (2) years in prison.
After engineering another strike in 1941, Butler was again imprisoned from 1941-1945, since the government regarded his disruption of oil production as a threat to the British War effort. In 1946, he called a general strike, and his supporters stormed the Red House. He was eventually expelled from the Oilfield Workers Trade Union (OWTU), a trade union organized in his absence by his second in command, Adrian Cola Rienzi.
Butler served on the Legislative Council from 1950-1961; he ran unsuccessfully for the Federal Elections in 1958 and again for the General Election in 1961. In 1970, the nation honoured Butler with the Trinity Cross. He died in 1977.
- Anthony, Michael. Heroes of the People of Trinidad and Tobago. St. James.
- Anthony, Michael. Historical Dictionary of Trinidad and Tobago. London: The Scarecrow Press, 1977. 81-84.