Oliver Clarke was one of the most outstanding leaders to have emerged from the Caribbean private sector in the era of Independence. He served his country most ably and was a strong supporter of Caribbean development.

A shrewd businessman, his resourcefulness and guidance will be greatly missed at many levels.

I am truly saddened by the death of this outstanding individual.

He was a friend with whom I have had many differences over these 50 years for he was as much Jamaican as I am Trinidadian and that made for storms, particularly in the formative years of Caribbean media development. But his ingrained civility and good humour were always at hand to make our problems transitory.

Oliver was viewed as part of the plantocracy in Jamaica which enjoyed the privileges of good fortune, but his earthiness was all Jamaican.

He entered the Caribbean media scene at a critical time. We were moving to establish the Caribbean News Agency (CANA). Tom Sherman was the managing director of the Gleaner at the time and he had little faith in the independence of Caribbean media…perhaps understandably, for Lord Thompson and Cecil King, newspaper magnates from the UK, owned the majority of media houses in the region. In spite of studies which argued that CANA could be a viable entity, Sherman simply said “No”. Jamaica is OUT!

We the remaining publishers then did what Caribbean politicians might have done earlier. We said, “stop”. Gleaner, take one year. Let’s talk again in 12 months. Within that period Clarke had replaced Sherman as managing director of the Gleaner. He said “Yes” and became a tower of strength in keeping press freedom vigorous and alive throughout the region.

Thank you, Oliver. You made that difference.

Then there were other times when things did not go so well. Like the Caribbean school book publishing initiative. Oliver and the Gleaner won the support of vice chancellor Preston and The University of the West Indies for the project. The Express, strongly supported by the late prime minister Eugenia Charles of Dominica, won the support of the OECS governments (only Trinidad and Tobago did not support in the southern Caribbean).

Printing of Caribbean school books commenced, but the project failed for weakness of cash flow. That was a minor Caribbean tragedy because printing of Caribbean school books would have been a major breakthrough in the education system. Perhaps Oliver may already be negotiating with St Peter for the Gleaner to undertake the printing of bibles.

There were so many other sides to Oliver Clarke.

He was a pillar of the Jamaican National Building Society. He was awarded the Americas Award from the American Foundation and an honorary doctor of laws degree from The University of the West Indies in 2009. In 2013 a further doctorate came his way—from Northern Caribbean University. There was the ongoing service as required for the Jamaican government in different capacities... the list is unending.

Oliver Clarke, an accountant by profession, was a shrewd businessman by practice, a journalist/publisher by instinct and a husband and father by his excellent choice.

I extend deepest sympathy from Marguerite and myself and in fact on behalf of the entire Caribbean media fraternity to Oliver’s dear wife, Monica and daughter, Alexandra. May he rest in the peace he so fully deserves.

I regret existing conditions which deny me the opportunity to say my final farewell in person.

Kenneth Gordon

via e-mail

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