Sir Clarence Augustus Seignornet

(25 February 1919-5 May 2002)
President of Dominica, Cabinet Secretary, Civil Servant.

Born in Roseau 25 February 1919, son of Mr. Clarence A. Seignoret and Mrs. Violet Seignoret (nee Riviere). Educated at Miss Potter’s School, Convent Prep, St.Mary’s College in St.Lucia and the Dominica Grammar School. He entered the clerical service in 1936 and began a distinguished career in the Public Service. He served in the Agricultural Department based in the Botanic Gardens and in several other departments in positions such as clerk at the Government Marketing Depot, Excise Officer, Administrative Steward of the Roseau Hospital and Administration Clerk responsible for cases referred by the department of Social Welfare.

In 1950 he married Judith Laronde of La Plaine and together they enjoyed a long and happy marriage that bore them two sons, Joey and Gilbert.

He became Principal Assistant Secretary in the Ministry of Social Services in 1956 when the Ministerial System of government was first introduced. In 1958 he was granted a scholarship to Oxford University to pursue an international public service course. Shortly after his return he became Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Trade and Production in 1960. He attended the 1966 Constitutional Conference in London with Chief Minister Edward Le Blanc and others, which agreed on the 1967 Constitution for Associated Statehood with Britain, the first stage towards political independence. He was Secretary to the Cabinet from the late 1960s into the 1970s. From 1966 to 1983 he also acted from time to time in the place of the Governor, and after independence in 1978, in place of the President. In 1966, during a visit by Queen Elizabeth II he was awarded the Order of the British Empire (OBE).

 

Sir Clarence Augustus Seignoret

After a period of crisis in Dominica from 1979 when office of the President was severely tested due to a constitutional crisis, Clarence Seignoret was sworn in as President of Dominica in October 1983 and served two full five-year terms until 25 October 1993. As has been written in “The Dominica Story” (p.283), his election to the post “was really the first settled Presidential appointment that the island had enjoyed in four years of independence. From 1983 to 1993 Seignoret won the respect of all Dominicans for his disciplined yet easy style, the concern he took to educate the country on matters of protocol and his support for the cultural traditions of Dominica and defence of its natural environment.”

 

Knighted by Queen Elizabeth II during her visit to Dominica on 25 October 1985, Sir Clarence was also awarded the Dominica Award of Honour by the State in 1994 on the completion of his two terms as President. Other honours included the Order of the Liberator granted by Venezuela in 1987 and being created a Knight of Malta in 1992. From the 1960’s, in his spare time, he worked a small farm on land he had purchased near Pont Casee, a pastime that he found a relaxation from the pressures of the senior civil service and where he could enjoy the natural gifts of Dominica that he so loved.

Compiled by Lennox Honychurch, University of the West Indies, University Centre.