Paul Miller – an Honourable Politician

I met Paul in the late 1960s when he was courting my friend from high school, Kemorine Grant. She had come to Kingston from Manning’s School in Westmoreland to do sixth form at St Hugh’s and we found ourselves in class together. We hit it off right away. By the time Paul came on the scene, Kemorine and I were students at The University of the West Indies, Mona, specialising in English literature.

For Paul, it was love at first sight. He had gone to visit one of his friends and there was Kemorine, sitting on the verandah. He immediately declared that this beautiful young woman was going to be his wife. I don’t think Kemorine was aware of Paul’s ambition right away. All the same, his spontaneous affirmation proved to be prophetic. Kemorine did respond positively to Paul’s optimistic vision of their future.


Paul had learned perseverance as a student at Calabar High School. The motto, “The utmost for the highest,” certainly motivated Paul to succeed. Not just in romance! Paul excelled in all areas of his fulfilling life. He was a committed Christian who played a dynamic role in the culture of the school. He was a member of the Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship and the Student Christian Movement. Paul manifested the core values of Calabar: “reverence for God, discipline, professionalism, accountability, integrity, respect and school pride.”

Calabar High School is a distinctive academic institution. Named after the port city of Calabar in Nigeria, the school acknowledges the African origins of the majority of students. The Calabar Theological College was founded in 1843 in a small village of the same name in Trelawny. The college was relocated to Kingston in 1868. The high school eventually grew out of the theological college. It was the Baptist Missionary Society of London and the Jamaica Baptist Union that founded the school in 1912 to educate the sons of Baptist ministers as well as working-class and middle-class boys.


After graduating from Calabar, Paul enrolled in the Jamaica Theological Seminary. He was on the path to becoming a minister in the church. But his life took a different turn after graduation. The secular gospel of “Better must come” was his new calling. Paul entered politics with the same religious zeal of the missionaries who founded Calabar, both theological college and high school.


In 1972, the People’s National Party won the general election. Paul was appointed as a senator and parliamentary secretary in the Ministry of Youth and Community Development. He was 27 years old. Paul had long been an advocate for youth. As general secretary of the Jamaica Youth Council, he championed the cause of youth participation at all levels of governance.

In a tribute to Paul, published in The Gleaner on May 4, Paul Burke, former general secretary of the People’s National Party, recalled that the Jamaica Youth Council “vigorously protested all the way up to February 1972, about the fact that young people were disenfranchised from voting. For that 1972 election, no one under 24 could vote, even though the prescribed voting age was 21 and the Jamaica Youth Council was very active in exposing and protesting it.”

Paul was instrumental in founding the Jamaica Union of Tertiary Students, which now represents approximately 25,000 students from 22 institutions. Another of Paul’s visionary projects was establishing an international student exchange programme. He was also the leading figure in creating the National Youth Service Programme, designed to encourage civic responsibility. Paul’s pioneering work on behalf of youth remains a model to be emulated.


Paul was a truly exceptional politician. His goal was not personal enrichment. He was a man of integrity who made an outstanding contribution to national development. And he was an advocate of egalitarianism. From quite early in life, Paul was compassionate and sensitive to social dis/advantage. At the thanksgiving service in his honour last Wednesday, his daughter Onika told a touching story.

As a child, Paul was sent to relatives in Portland in an attempt to escape infection with polio. The first day at school, he noticed that he was the only one wearing shoes. He promptly took them off. Cynics will say he should have kept the shoes on to give the other children something to aspire to. But that was not Paul’s way. He did not want his shoes to set him apart from his classmates.

After leaving representational politics, Paul continued to contribute to social transformation as a very active member of the United Church. He was a foundational member of the Ecumenical Education Committee, which is now often in contention with the government on the matter of the autonomy of church-operated schools like Calabar. Dependence on public funding does test the limits of self-governance.

Paul’s many accomplishments as a public figure are truly distinguished. But for those of us who knew him in private life, Paul will be best remembered as a man of principle and passion who nurtured his family and friends without reservation. His hearty laugh, his mischievous wit, his generous spirit were an embrace that made us feel at home in his presence.

In her eloquent tribute to Paul, Kemorine addressed him with these words: “What a blessing it has been to have shared my life with you for over 50 years. We believed that our marriage was ordained by God, and throughout the journey, we were convinced that it was also nurtured by God, tested by God and sustained by God.” This testimony is such a powerful expression of the divine inspiration that motivated Paul to claim the young woman on the verandah. And her wisdom in choosing to welcome him!


2 thoughts on “Paul Miller – an Honourable Politician

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  1. I remember Kemorine and Paul! May Kemorine and their offspring find comfort after his departure! Paul made significant contributions to the lives of others while here. May he continue to the next phase of his life in peace as his soul continues to grow towards spiritual perfection.

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