Clinton Hart was born in Montego Bay, Saint James on April 12, 1903. The Harts are one of Jamaica’s oldest families, and they can trace their family tree back to the late 1700’s when the aptly named Moses Hart arrived in Jamaica and settled in Montego Bay. He arrived from England, and there lies the family’s roots, although the name itself suggests that they might have further roots among German Jews who migrated to England.
Although it grew to produce a long line of legendary lawyers, it was a family known as merchants. Although the family did not make its living from slave labour, Aaron Hart, descendant of Moses, saw his store in Reading, St. James, burnt to the ground during the slave rebellion of 1832. His son, Samuel, was left barefoot and nearly destitute and had to seek work at ten years old. By thirty six, however, he had recovered and succeeded to become the most prominent businessman in Montego Bay, owning several stores, a wharf, and large tracts of land. A bit of good fortune played its part, as Samuel had been persuaded to encash an insurance policy at face value for a wealthy Indian gentleman and became the beneficiary of the policy. The gentleman would eventually get sick and die, leaving young Samuel with a not-so-small fortune of five hundred pounds. He never looked back.
Samuel’s sons who remained in Jamaica were Edmund and Ansel, and the sons of Edmund were Dudley, who died at 11, Alan, father of our own Tony Hart, and Clinton, father of our own Hugh Hart.
In case you haven’t figured it out, Munro College is something of a Hart family tradition since the late 1800’s, and so Clinton Hart, along with his younger brother Alan, were said to represent the sixth generation of Harts who attended Munro. He attended what was then Potsdam School under the leadership of fellow inductee Custos Albert “Wagga” Harrison and was there when the name changed to Munro College in 1917.
We do not know much about his time at Munro, and while one would guess that like his son, he was something of a scholar and an athlete, what the records do indicate for sure was that he was a good footballer and played on the football team that shared the Olivier Shield with Jamaica College in 1919. His interest in sports continued after school, and he listed polo, golf, and tennis among his hobbies in adult life. After Munro, Clinton attended Dulwhich College in England where he studied law.
He returned to Jamaica to begin a successful legal career, highlighted in 1962 by founding the leading and legendary law firm, Clinton Hart and Company, which remains successful to this day, serving an enviable array of domestic and international clients in diverse areas of civil and commercial law.
Clinton was also clerk of the legislature of Jamaica from 1924, and so when a new constitution guaranteeing universal adult suffrage came along in 1944, he became clerk of the new House of Representatives. In 1945, it was Clinton Hart who compiled and wrote the Handbook of the Legislative Council and House of Representatives of Jamaica: including the Constitution and the instructions regulating the same and the standing rules and orders of the chambers. He remained the first Clerk of the House after independence in 1962.
Despite never taking part in active politics like several of his relatives, Clinton quietly played no small part in shaping the vaunted stability of Jamaica’s two-party democracy. As such, he was one of a long line of Munronians, including his son, who have played a part in shaping Jamaica’s political life.
In addition to his legal and parliamentary career, Clinton Hart held several Chairmanships and Directorships in corporate Jamaica, including being Chairman of Carreras of Jamaica Limited and Jamaica Flour Mills. A devout and active Anglican, he was also legal advisor to the Incorporated Lay Body of the Church of England in Jamaica.
He was married to Eily, nee deCordova, and they had one son, Hugh Cecil Hart, and one daughter, Shirley, now Mrs. R.M. Bailey. His son, Hugh Hart, in addition to becoming a senior partner in his father’s firm, went on to found his own leading firm, Hart, Muirhead, and Fatta, in 1990, and has become one of the leading corporate lawyers in the western hemisphere, in addition to being a prominent government minister.
Being grandson of Samuel, father to Hugh, and uncle to Tony is more than enough to brag about, but Clinton Hart proudly forged his own path of being an outstanding Munronian and an outstanding Jamaican, highlighted by his unheralded public service and his legendary service to the legal profession.
For these and other reasons, John Hart has been inducted into the Munro College Old Boys Association Hall of Fame.