The transitioning of Ralph Francis

Prominent attorney and politician, Ralph Francis, who was hospitalized for the past several weeks with COVID-19 related illnesses, has succumbed to the disease on Tuesday afternoon.

In a statement last evening, MSJMC confirmed his passing, “The patient, a male, age seventy-two (72), with comorbidities, was admitted to the hospital on February 8, 2021 in severe respiratory distress, requiring ventilator support. Despite the best efforts of our care team the patient succumbed to the illness today, March 2, 2021 at 4:37pm.”

Francis, often referred to as ‘the poor man’s lawyer,’ will be ‘truly missed’, a tearful Yvonne Piper, his companion for the past twenty-six years told PointeXpress newspaper. 

The late attorney not only made himself available for many who could not afford legal fees when they had broaches with the law, but he also championed many of the electoral cases undertaken by the Free and Fair Elections League, led by the late George Rick James. Francis also appeared as attorney for the Barbuda Council in several of their cases with the central government on a range of issues.

Francis was also active in politics as he unsuccessfully contested several general elections in the country; he appeared as a candidate for the opposition UNDP which later morphed into the United Progressive Party (UPP). 

He was among a group of UPP politicians who left the party in 2003 to form the Organization for National Development, along current Minister of Information, Broadcasting and Telecommunications Melford Nicholas and Glentis Goodwin. Nicholas would later join the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party. He appeared as a candidate for the party in the only general elections it contested in 2009. He was not victorious.

Minister Nicholas said after hearing of Francis’ passing said both he and other founding members of the now-defunct ONP consoled each other Tuesday afternoon as they reflected on the passing of a close friend and colleague. “There were three things that Ralph loved in life; golf, horse racing and a good argument,” he recalled.

Ralph Francis was the son of the late Claude Earl Francis, himself a prominent lawyer and politician from Barbuda.

Piper described Francis as a man who was passionate about golf and one who was deeply appreciative of local culture, in particular calypso music. He was also a regular at the Friday night sessions at one of the local casinos where he displayed his excellent dancing skills.

Ralph Francis was the father of two children and would have turned seventy-three in May.

Meanwhile the Antigua Turf Club issued a statement overnight marking his passing It reads: Statement on the passing of Ralph Francis from the Antigua Turf Club

The president, executive and members of the Antigua Turf Club express our heartfelt condolences on the passing of former vice president, owner, trainer and jockey, Ralph Francis Esq., affectionately known to us as “Ben Jones.” He was a senior member of the horse racing fraternity, and the chief legal advisor to the Antigua Turf Club. A founding member of the Cassada Gardens Turf Club back in 1963/4, Ralph’s love for the sport of horse racing grew when he and friends such as Spinner Gordon, Noel James, Norris Walter and Desmond Thomas would journey to the syndicate stables and seek permission to ride the horses which were stabled at the Gambles Buff, after the Syndicate Estates had terminated their running of horse racing at Cassada Gardens. He was humorous, good natured and outspoken whenever he felt that the interest of horse racing was not being best served. He never heard to be on the opposite side of the status quo. His presence at the track, around the stables and, more so as the voice calling the races on race days, will be surely missed

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