Linden Forbes Burnham
From The West Indian Encyclopedia
Burnham -Linden Forbes Sampson (1923-1985) First Executive President of the Republic of Guyana: (October 6, 1980 - August 6, 1985). Burnham was born in Kitty, on February 20, 1923. He was the son of James Ethelbert and Rachel Abigail (nee Sampson) Burnham. Burnham received his primary education at the Kitty Methodist School before moving on to Central High School and then to Queen’s College in 1935.
In 1954 he won the Centenary Exhibition and a Government Junior Scholarship. In 1955 he was awarded the Percival Exhibition. In 1942, Burnham received the highest scholastic award in the country at that time, the British Guiana Scholarship. This annual award was reserved for the scholar attaining the highest grades at the Senior Cambridge Examinations held locally.
In 1944, Burnham earned the Bachelor of Arts Degree at External Examinations of the University of London. In 1947, he received his Bachelor of Laws (Hons.) degree at the University of London. In 1948 he was admitted to the bar of the Honourable Society of Gray’s Inn, London.
An extemporary scholar, Burnham was noted for his oratory skills. In 1947 Burnham was elected President of the West Indian Students Union in London, a position which allowed him to participate as a delegate of the Union in the International Union of Students’ Congress in Prague (1947) and Paris (1948)
In 1951 he married Sheila Bernice Lataste. They had three daughters: Roxanne, Annabelle, and Francesca. In 1957 he married Viola Victorine Harper together they had two daughters, Melanie and Ulele. Burnham returned to British Guiana (Guyana) and in 1949, along with Dr. Cheddi Jagan they founded the People’s Progressive Party (PPP). Burnham was Chairman of the Party.
In 1952 Burnham was elected to the Georgetown Town Council. In 1959 he became Mayor of Georgetown, and again in 1964. In 1959, Burnham was elected President of the Bar Association of Guyana. In 1963 and in 1965 he was elected President of the Guyana Labour Union. In 1953 when the PPP Government came to power, Burnham was appointed Minister of Education.
In 1957 Burnham founded his own political Party – the People’s National Congress (PNC). This followed the suspension of the British Guiana Constitution by the British Government, and the rift in the (PPP). In 1964 the PNC became the major party in a coalition Government with the United Force and Burnham became Premier of British Guiana.
May 26, 1966, Burnham led the country to independence and was the first Prime Minister of Guyana. Guyana became a Republic in 1970. On October 6, 1980 Burnham became Guyana’s first Executive President, a position he held until his death. Burnham hobbies included cricket, chess and horseback riding.
On August 6, 1985 Burnham died at the Georgetown Hospital in Guyana after a throat operation.