Prime Minister Phillip Davis has described his Social Services and Urban Renewal Minister, Obediah Hercules Wilchcombe, as “a true patriot, a visionary leader, and a cherished friend” following his death at the Rand Memorial Hospital in Grand Bahama today.
He said ‘Obie’, as he was popularly known, had for the past two years “served with great distinction as Member of Parliament for West Grand Bahama and Bimini and Minister of Social Services and Urban Renewal”. He was recently appointed to take on the additional portfolio of Information and Broadcasting.
“Obie’s untimely passing is very shocking and very sad. Even though he has achieved much in his many years of public service, he still had so much more to offer,” Davis said of his senior minister, who was born on November 4, 1958. The cause of death has not been disclosed.
In 1975, Wilchcombe started his career as a journalist with the Broadcasting Corporation of The Bahamas and Davis said “we remember well his many innovations, such as being the first to report a story, not from behind a desk, but walking and talking to the camera.”
“This personal touch reflected the easy, intimate style with which he addressed everyone. Over 25 years, he rose through the ranks, holding various positions, including Deputy Director of News, News Director, and Assistant General Manager,” he said.
Davis said he was “resolute and courageous in his reporting and his defence of the Fourth Estate”.
“He is perhaps the only journalist in the country to have been sent to prison for refusing to reveal his sources, an episode that continued to traumatize him many years later,” he said.
Wilchcombe had refused to reveal from whom he received a letter that was passed to him from a condemned inmate who, on the same evening that the letter was received, committed suicide.
Davis said that although he formally began his political career in 1994, his political roots ran much deeper,” noting that Obie had “cut his teeth writing speeches for the Father of the Nation, Sir Lynden Pindling”.
He said, politically, Obie held many senior offices, both within the ruling Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) and within the government.
“He will likely be remembered most for his two stints as Minister of Tourism, where his visionary initiatives, such as the introduction of sports, religious, and African-American tourism significantly enhanced the tourism product of The Bahamas,” he said.
“His contribution to the development of the film industry was exemplary, and the success of this policy was evident when two of the top three films of 2006 were shot in our beautiful nation.”
“He was funny and thoughtful, with a great sense of our place in history. His articulate discourse and thoughtful insights were profound and often shocked the conscience of the Progressive Liberal Party, leading to meaningful deliberations and impactful resolutions.”
“His favourite phrase, ‘One Love’, exemplified his worldview, symbolising unity, compassion, and a deep love for humanity,” Davis said.
Wilchcombe is a former president of the Grand Bahama Basketball Association and the Commonwealth American Football League (CAFL).