Act II Scene V of Twelfth Knight contains one of Shakespeare’s most oft-repeated quotations: “Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them”. Carlton Earl Davis is not one to the manor born. No hereditary legacy has made him great. Usually, it is politicians and military leaders who have greatness thrust upon them by some unplanned circumstance. He has been neither of these. Carlton Earl Davis has achieved greatness by dint of the content of his character, the acuity of his intellect, perspicacity and high quality of public service rendered in his native land.
Born the eldest child of Mr. Rupert Davis and Mrs Amy Briscoe-Davis of May Pen, Clarendon Carlton’s path to earned greatest started with education as he climbed the educational ladder from May Pen and Four Paths Elementary Schools, to Holmwood Practical Training Centre, now Holmwood Technical High School, to the Jamaica School of Agriculture, to the University of the West Indies and finally to McGill University where he earned in M Sc and Ph D degrees in Soil Chemistry. As we celebrate the educational achievements of Carlton it is appropriate to pay tribute to Rupert and Amy Davis. Not only did they provide the necessary genetic endowment but more importantly they created the appropriate home environment that inspired their children to excel. Carlton was mandated to pioneer the path, which he so brilliantly did, but Rae and Omar quickly and ably followed
The point is that at the time at which the Davis brothers grew up educational opportunities were limited, and colonial social expectations did not include a vision of rural youth of modest means becoming Doctors of Science, Economics, and Engineering, and certainly not of the same family. That was the vision being proclaimed by the nationalists urging and moving the country to self-determination. The Davis brothers, led by Carlton, belonged to that generation that validated the vision of nationalists and that began debunking the long-held colonial myths.
Having scaled the heights of academe, Dr. Davis returned to serve his country by use of the knowledge and skills that he had acquired for he understood that stellar academic achievement is nothing more than preparation for service to those whose sacrifices made that achievement possible.
Dr. Davis’s service to his country can be categorised under three headings:
- Scientist: He was Scientific and Senior Scientific Officer at the Scientific Research Council, Technical Officer and Director of Research and Development in the Ministry of Mining and Executive Director of the Jamaica Bauxite Institute. Included under this category is the publication of sixty papers on the Chemistry and Mineralogy of soils, clays, bauxite and Mineral Resource policies and two books on Jamaica and the world of bauxite. By itself, this record of scientific work would be a respectable lifetime output for any Professor in any well-recognised university.
- Public Servant: Dr. Davis has been Chairman of the Bauxite Institute, Chairman of the National Housing Trust, Chairman Clarendon Alumina Production Limited, Member of the Board of the Bank of Jamaica, Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Civil Service, since 1993. It would be only fair to add that he is the virtual owner of the Civil Service Modernisation Programme that has brought about the creation of Executive Agencies and several other innovations in the Jamaican Civil Service. This by itself is a respectable lifetime accomplishment for any Civil Servant.
- Community Leader. Chairman of the CHASE Fund that has approved over 660 projects, worth over $1.2 billion since 2003 spread across the fields of sports, culture, the arts, health early childhood education; Chairman of Special Olympics, Jamaica the leading Special Olympics programme in the Caribbean and widely regarded as the model for acceptance and inclusion and in the forefront of changing attitudes toward people with intellectual disabilities. This is indicative of not only administrative prowess but compassion and concern for the weakest members of society.
The listing of the three main areas in which Dr. Davis has served Jamaica continuously over the last forty years merely skims the surface of what he has actually achieved. For example, concealed below the surface is that he is the foremost authority on Jamaican bauxite and one of the leading experts in the world on the bauxite industry. Also concealed is that he is the longest-serving Cabinet Secretary in Jamaica, having served for fifteen years and having served Cabinets led by three Prime Ministers. More importantly, he has presided over the revamping of the role of the Cabinet Office from mere record keeping to a wider involvement of in governance within the public sector and more specifically in leadership in the Civil Service.
These accomplishments have not gone unrecognised. Dr Davis has been awarded the Science in Industry Prize of the Jamaica Society of Scientists and Technologists; the Gleaner Honour Award, Manager of the Year by the Jamaica Institute of Management, Commander of the Order of Distinction and Order of Jamaica by the Government of Jamaica and Doctor of Laws, Honoris Causa, by the University of the West Indies.
Dr. Davis has not been afraid of greatness because he has achieved greatness with such easy grace, generosity of spirit and genteel demeanor.
Devoted son, dependable brother, loving husband, exemplary parent, compassionate community leader, outstanding scientists and great public servant, Dr the Honourable Carlton Earl Davis the Electoral Commission of Jamaica thanks you for your contribution to our work, salutes you on your official departure from the public services and wishes for you and your family continued good health, happiness and God’s richest blessings.
Written and Read by Prof. Errol Miller