Dec. 18, 2002 – The 24th Legislature paid tribute on Wednesday to 28 individuals, living and deceased, for their contributions to the Virgin Islands community and the wider world.
Four individuals received the prestigious Virgin Islands Medal of Honor, the highest honor awarded in the territory. The other 24 received plaques for their achievements.
"We are all very proud of what you recipients have done for the territory," Sen. Carlton Dowe said in his welcome speech.
Amadeo Francis, Verne A. Hodge, Ron de Lugo and the late Earle B. Ottley received the Medal of Honor awards.
Francis was lauded for his contributions to the growth of athletics in the Virgin Islands and the Caribbean. He competed in track and field at the 1956 Olympic Games and has held executive positions with the International Association of Athletics Federations, the Jury of Appeals for the Olympic Games and World Championships, the Pan American Athletic Commission and the North American, Central American and Caribbean Athletic Association.
In his public life, Francis was executive assistant to Gov. Alexander A. Farrelly and served as administrative and financial director of the Public Finance Authority from 1995 through his firing by Gov. Charles W. Turnbull at the end of 2001. A month later, the Legislature unanimously voted to award him the medal.
"I served the islands to the best of my ability," Francis said Wednesday. "I cannot help but be tremendously humbled by this honor my native land has bestowed upon me."
Hodge was commended for his service as presiding judge of the Territorial Court from 1976 to 1999. He was the territory's top prosecutor before Gov. Cyril E. King named him to the bench. Hodge also made his lasting mark culturally as the founder and continuing facilitator of the territory's best-known steelpan group, the Territorial Court Rising Stars Youth Steel Orchestra, and served on the University of the Virgin Islands board of trustees.
Hodge was unable to attend the ceremony.
De Lugo served first as a V.I. senator and then as the territory's first delegate to Congress, holding that office for 20 years and attaining the committee influence in the House of Representatives that accrued with longevity. He was instrumental in securing the rights of Virgin Islanders to elect their own governor and to bring about change through initiative, referendum and recall and was an effective advocate on behalf of other U.S. possessions.
Also recognized as the prime mover behind modern-day Carnival in 1952 when he was an on-air personality known as "Mango Jones" on WSTA Radio, de Lugo was inducted into the Carnival Hall of Fame this year as a culture bearer. His grandson Carl de Lugo accepted his medal on his behalf.
"It fills me with great pleasure to stand before you today and receive this honor, this medal, on behalf of my grandfather," Carl de Lugo stated as he accepted the award.
Ottley, who died in 1999 at the age of 78, was praised for his years of service in the Senate. A lawmaker for 34 years, from 1947 through 1981, he was widely regarded as the single most powerful person in the chamber where he served as president in 1963-69 and which now bears his name.
Known also as a journalist and labor leader, he was active in government and behind-the-scenes politics throughout his life. He was the leader of the Virgin Islands Labor Union in the late 1940s and later headed the V.I. Status Commission and the Housing Finance Authority. His memoirs were published as "Trials and Triumphs: The Long Road to a Middle-Class Society in the U.S. Virgin Islands," in 1982, and "The Hardball Years," in 1994.
His wife, Alma Ottley, accepted the award that was bestowed upon him. "I am grateful for the recognition that you have given him by this medal," she said. "My hope is that the legacy you have given him will pave the way for other Virgin Islanders to follow."
Wednesday's four honorees joined the ranks of previous Medal of Honor recipients, including Farrelly, Gov. Roy L. Schneider, Julian Jackson and Tim Duncan.
Those who received plaques on Wednesday were: Luna Fleming-Claxton, the late Emile "Milo" Francis, Georgia Francis, the late Randolph Harley, the late Earl V. Haynes, Louis A. Jackson, Dr. Aida Khatchadourin, Agnes King, Wilma Lewis, Winifred Lewis-Garfield, the late Hugh "Hugo" Otis Liburd, Romeo Malone, Gerda Marsh, the late George Alexander Mena Sr., Henry Millin, Fay Moon, Dr. George Newton, Michael Rodriquez, Clarence Scipio, the late Andrew Shacove, Mario Thomas, Ecedro Wesselhoft, the late Sgt. Maudlin White and Glen "Kimbie" Williams.
Senators present for the ceremony were Lorraine Berry, Douglas Canton Jr., Donald "Ducks" Cole, Roosevelt David, Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg, Carlton Dowe, Almando "Rocky" Liburd and Celestino White Sr.
On Thursday, the Legislature will meet on St. Croix for a ceremony recognizing and presenting plaques to eight honorees: Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Lawrence Bastian, Violette Damideaux, Edward Griffin, Helen Sutton-Griffin, the late Jessica Tutein-Moolenaar, the late Praxedes Nieves and the late Randolph Schulterbrandt.
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