Remembering legal and financial pioneer Arthur Hunter

Arthur Hunter

Noted attorneys and Cayman Islands legislators were among those paying tribute to Arthur Hunter over the past week, following his sudden death.

Mr. Hunter was one of the men most responsible for changing the Cayman Islands from a quiet Caribbean outpost into a thriving international financial center and along with his father founded the law firm Hunter & Hunter, which is now Appleby (Cayman) Ltd.

Mr. Hunter had undergone recent surgery to replace a heart valve. During a visit to Health City on Nov. 21, he unexpectedly collapsed. Doctors were unable to revive him. He was 81.

Mr. Hunter, along with attorney Bill Walker, the founder of Walkers, and Sir Vassel Johnson, penned important revisions to the Companies Law of 1960.

“The story I have always been told was that the work was done at Mr. Arthur’s kitchen table,” Andrew Bolton, a partner at Appleby, said in a written statement. “I think it is fair to say that Arthur Hunter was key to the early success of the Cayman Islands, and his influence lives on in the opportunities that the financial sector nowadays gives to so many people, and the prosperity it brings to the Islands.”

A native-born Caymanian, whose family has been on the island for many generations, Mr. Hunter was lauded in the Legislative Assembly last Thursday. Many members recalled their friendships and personal interactions with one of the islands’ leading attorneys.

“This country’s lost an icon,” said Finance Minister Roy McTaggart, who recalled his family and the Hunters camping at Rum Point on Easter weekends when Mr. McTaggart was a child.

He and others recalled the attorney’s soft-spoken and generous nature.

“Over the years,” Premier Alden McLaughlin said, “if you asked him for something, he would swear you to secrecy not to publicize from whom you got the contribution.”

The son of an attorney, Mr. Hunter was an active Rotarian and, according to Mr. McLaughlin, the first district governor from Cayman, overseeing clubs throughout the Caribbean. He was chairman of the board for a number of prominent companies and government agencies over the years and was an avid boater in his free time.

In addition, Mr. Hunter was a correspondent for the Caymanian Weekly newspaper. Early in his career, he wrote about a Bodden Town garden party where the main feature was the competition for Miss Popularity 1966.

He was founder of the Cayman Islands Law Society and the first Caymanian to be academically qualified as an attorney. Ramon Alberga is the attorney who oversaw Mr. Hunter’s certification in Jamaica, where he practiced as an articled clerk after attending law school in England. The two men knew each other for 60 years, Mr. Alberga said.

“He was a lawyer who loved his profession,” Mr. Alberga said. “He was a man of great integrity and he played an important part in Cayman.”

Attorneys who wanted to practice in Cayman had to apply and be recognized in Jamaica. Once that process was complete in 1960, Mr. Hunter returned to Cayman, where he was appointed clerk of the court and coroner. He also became the country’s first company registrar.

In 1965, he entered private practice partnering with his father, Clifton Hunter, to form Hunter and Hunter, later to become Appleby Ltd. It was while a member of the original firm that he took part in creating the legal structure that would entice finance companies to locate in Cayman.

“He was very deeply interested in the development of Cayman,” Mr. Alberga said. “We talked about it quite a lot.”

In 2013, University of Alabama professors Tony Freyer and Andrew Morriss published a paper on the history of Cayman’s financial development. They credited the work Mr. Walker and Mr. Hunter did on the Companies Law as critical to the islands’ business community. The paper quotes Mr. Hunter discussing the changes made in the original law.

“What really started the ball a-rolling were the bits of legislation offering tax concessions,” and the “idea that we could have a company separate from the individual, that he could shield behind the (company name),” the paper quotes Mr. Hunter as saying.

While he ran, but was never elected to office, Mr. Hunter continued to play a role in crafting legislation. Mr. McLaughlin said Mr. Hunter was partly responsible for the premier’s political success.

“When I was persuaded to stand for election for the first time in 2000, Mr. Arthur was one of my strongest proponents,” Mr. McLaughlin said. “He spoke on my behalf on many a platform. He assisted me with speeches. The very first speech I had to give on the steps of the courthouse, preparing for that, I was shaking like a leaf. He made me present the speech to him three times before I went to the meeting. Those things I will always cherish, always be grateful for and never forget.”

He also mentored attorney David Ritch, convincing the young lawyer in 1979 to leave government work and join Hunter and Hunter. Mr. Ritch later started his own firm, Ritch & Conolly.

“He taught me that to be a good lawyer was more than just being clever,” Mr. Ritch said. “You had to respect your client. You had to work diligently.”

He said a plaque Mr. Hunter kept on the wall above his desk made a lasting impression on him.

“It said, ‘Good things cometh to those who waiteth, as long as they work like hell while they waiteth,’” Mr. Ritch said with a laugh. “Every time I went in his office I saw that. It taught me you had to pay your dues.”

He said Mr. Hunter was a spontaneously generous man.

“Looking out for everyone was kind of part of his core values,” Mr. Ritch said. “He was a strong believer in the Cayman Islands and the Caymanian people. He never expected to be specially recognized for the things he did. He had no agendas. What you saw was what you got. He was a very, very open and genuine individual.

“When someone like Arthur passes away,” he added, “you know that’s a void that will never be filled.”

Leader of the Opposition Ezzard Miller, speaking in the Legislative Assembly last week, said Cayman owes much to Mr. Hunter.

“He had always had a determined yet quiet resolve and in his own way to keeping the good ship Cayman on an even keel and headed in the right direction,” Mr. Miller said. “Those kinds of people, and there are not many of them left, have left a mark on this country that all of us should be grateful [for].”

Mr. Hunter is survived by his wife Karen, son Bryan, daughter Desiree, brother George and four grandchildren. Services will be held at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Elmslie Memorial United Church in George Town.