Sir Ellis Clarke

The first President of Trinidad and Tobago and the second and last Governor-General. He was one of the main architects of Trinidad and Tobago’s 1962 Independence constitution. 

Clarke attended Saint Mary’s College, winning an Island Scholarship in Mathematics in 1938. Ellis Clarke attended University College London of the University of London, where he received a Bachelor of Law degree and was called to the bar at Gray’s Inn. He returned to Port of Spain in 1941, taking up private practice there.

He served as Solicitor-General from 1954 to 1956, Deputy Colonial Secretary 1956–57, and Attorney General 1957–62. After Independence in 1962 he served as Ambassador to the United States, Canada and Mexico, and Permanent Representative to the United Nations.

In 1972 he succeeded Sir Solomon Hochoy as Governor General. When Trinidad and Tobago became a republic in 1976, Clarke was unanimously elected the country’s first President by the electoral college, which comprised the elected members of both Houses of Parliament. He was re-elected by the People’s National Movement-controlled electoral college and completed his second term in 1987. Disagreements with the new National Alliance for Reconstruction government resulted in Clarke’s decision not to seek a third term. He was succeeded by Noor Hassanali.

Clarke was invested as a Companion of St Michael and St George by Queen Elizabeth II in 1960 and was awarded a knighthood as a Knight Grand Cross of that order in 1972. Although he ceased to use the title Sir after the country became a republic, after retirement from the presidency he re-adopted his title and was generally referred to as “Former President, Sir Ellis Clarke” or Sir Ellis.

He was married to Lady Ermyntrude Clarke (1921–2002) for almost fifty years.[2] They had three children: Peter Ellis Clarke (married to Suzanne Traboulay, a former beauty queen), Margaret-Ann (married to Gordon Fisken) and Richard (who died as a young child).

Ellis Clarke was one of six experts worldwide asked to submit reports to Australia’s Republic Advisory Committee in 1993 detailing his country’s experience in moving from a constitutional monarchy to a republic.