Born in 1915 to a family whose home had once been the converted slave barracks on an old sugar estate, Sir Howard Cooke looks back on a life that mirrors the history of modern Jamaica. From rebellious schoolboy to Mico scholar, his subsequent years as teacher throughout the 1930s were a time of extreme social and political ferment in Jamaica.
As a young man, he was swiftly swept up into the political centre as Jamaica moved towards the formation of trade unions and political parties on the march to self-government. He was there as a founding member of the People’s National Party, a participant in Jamaica Welfare and the start of community organisation, a member of the short-lived Federation of the West Indies, an elected representative and minister of government for eight years.
They Call Me Teacher paints with vivid clarity the ‘rags to riches’ story of Sir Howard Cooke and his rise from humble beginnings to become Jamaica’s third Jamaican-born Governor General and its Head of State. What unfolds in this book is at once the personal tale of a unique individual overcoming the odds and an ‘everyman’s’ catalogue of experiences common to many who grew up in colonial Jamaica.
But above all, it is his role as teacher, mentor and guide that distinguishes Sir Howard’s outstanding career. It is for this reason that even while he occupies the highest office of the land he is still fondly known as ‘Teacher’ by those whose lives he has touched.