Thomas Russell, who served as Cayman’s third governor, between 1974 and 1981, died Monday in Scotland. He was 96.
Mr. Russell, widely acknowledged as one of Cayman’s most well respected governors, also served as Cayman’s territorial representative in the U.K. after his term in the governor’s office ended. He served as Cayman’s representative in London between 1982 and 2000, helping establish what is today the Cayman Islands London Office.
“With his passing, the Cayman Islands has lost a true friend,” Premier Alden McLaughlin said Tuesday. “He was, by far, one of the most respected and favored governors of the Cayman Islands. He returned to Cayman often, visiting with friends and renewing acquaintances. Many Caymanians will remember Mr. Russell with great fondness.”
Mr. Russell served as Cayman’s governor during a transitional time for the territory. At that time, the governor presided over both the Legislative Assembly and Cabinet and had a much more direct role in governance than have subsequent territorial governors.
Mr. Russell was awarded the Order of the British Empire (1963), Commander of the British Empire (1970) and the Most Distinguished Order of St. Michael and St. George (1980). In 2012, Prince Philip appointed Mr. Russell as “vice president for life” of the Royal Commonwealth Ex-Services League. Cayman Islands Veterans Association president, Capt. Dale Banks, said at the time that the honor for Mr. Russell was well deserved.
“Mr. Russell is a genuine military hero who was wounded and taken prisoner by the Germans during World War II. His background affords him a unique insight into the great debt that is owed to those who served to keep us free,” he said.
Mr. Russell’s term as governor was extended three times, and eventually led to him serving seven years in office. He was Cayman’s longest-serving governor. These days, gubernatorial terms are typically three years, with a potential one-year extension.
“You can earn popularity, but don’t try for it,” Mr. Russell was quoted as saying in a 2009 interview with the Cayman Compass.
One reason why Mr. Russell might have been so popular: “I related my job in the Cayman Islands to being a district commissioner,” he said. “If you don’t get down with the people, you get nothing done in your district.”
In 2005, while attending the Compass’s 40th anniversary party, Mr. Russell noted, “We did not have mission statements at [that] time. We were supposed to know what we were doing.”
He turned serious at the event when he spoke of his long service as Cayman’s governor and as its first London representative: “When I began this job back in 1974, the trust and belief that people had in me was a supreme compliment and very humbling. I hope in some way I have repaid that trust.”