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Journal of the Bahamas Historical Society, Volume 1 (October 1979)

by Ruth Bowe

Alfred Francis Adderley combined many fine qualities of character and brilliant intellect.1 He was a leader in his church and community, a statesman, and a gentleman. He was born on November 16, 1891 to Mr. and Mrs. Wilfred Parliament Adderley, and followed in his family's tradition.

Before Alfred's birth, the name of Adderley was well respected in legal and administrative circles. He was the third member of the family to be elected to the House of Assembly. His father, W. P. Adderley, C.B.E., J.P., served as a House member for 35 years. His great uncle, William Campbell Adderley was one of the first black men elected to that body.2 Adderley's grandfather, Aladin, owned large estates in New Providence, but made his home on Delancy Street.

Adderley earned his education in the Bahamas and abroad. He attended Boys Central School and the Nassau Grammar School in New Providence. In the early 1900s he went to Denstone College, Staffordshire, England. By 1915 he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts and Law (Hons.), From 1915 to 1919 he studied at Middle Temple, England where he was called to the English Bar and soon after to the Bahamas Bar. He further enhanced his academic credentials in 1935 by obtaining a Master of Arts degree.

In his own calm and deliberate manner Mr. Adderley practiced in the courts for 34 years. As the most outstanding trial lawyer of his time he defended more criminal cases than his peers, and none of his clients went to the gallows. Famous among his court appearances was his role as prosecutor in the Sir Harry Oakes murder trial.3

Among many noteworthy legal appointments, two stand out, First, in 1935 Adderley was selected as the legal advisor to the House of Assembly,4 in which capacity he served for three years. The second occurred in the early 1950s. The then Governor, Sir Robert Neville attempted, as Sir Etienne Dupuch has described, "to bridge a most difficult hurdle in the life of the community,"5 by directly attacking the color line. Neville's association with and the encouragement of the black community created resentment. Thus not surprisingly in 1951 when Sir Robert appointed A. F. Adderley to the newly-vacant Chief Justiceship, his decision met with opposition from the ruling clique in the House of Assembly. Nevertheless, Adderley succeeded in becoming the first black Chief Justice of the Bahamas.


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  1. Nassau Guardian, June 17, 1953.
  2. Ibid.
  3. The Sir Harry Oakes trial won international attention in 1946. Mr. Adderley was the Prosecutor in this case despite the wishes of the defendant, 'Count' de Merigny, who wanted Adderley to serve in his behalf. See also Count Alfred de Marigny, More Devil than Saint. (New York, 1946).
  4. Votes of the House of Assembly, 1935.
  5. Sir Etienne Dupuch, The Tribune Story, (London, 1967), 100.