The Right Honourable Lord Learie Nicholas Constantine, Baron Constantine was a West Indian cricketer, lawyer and politician who served as Trinidad’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom and became the UK’s 1st black peer. He played 18 Test matches before the Second World War and took the West Indies’ 1st wicket in Test cricket.
An advocate against racial discrimination, in later life he was influential in the passing of the Race Relations Act in Britain.
He was knighted in 1962 and made a life peer in 1969.
Born in Trinidad, Constantine established an early reputation as a promising cricketer, and was a member of the West Indies teams that toured England in 1923 and 1928. Unhappy at the lack of opportunities for black people in Trinidad, he decided to pursue a career as a professional cricketer in England, and after the 1928 tour was awarded a professional contract with the Lancashire League club Nelson.
He played for the club with great distinction between 1929 and 1938, while continuing as a member of the West Indies Test team in tours of England and Australia. Although his record as a Test cricketer was less impressive than in other cricket he helped to establish a uniquely West Indian style of play. He was chosen as one of the Wisden Cricketers of the Year in 1939.
After working during the Second World War for the Ministry of Labour and National Service as a Welfare Officer responsible for West Indians employed in English factories, Constantine qualified as a barrister in 1954, while also establishing himself as a journalist and broadcaster. He returned to Trinidad in 1954, entered politics and became a founding member of the People’s National Movement, subsequently entering the Trinidad government as minister of communications.
In 1961 he returned to England as Trinidad’s High Commissioner, serving until 1964.
In his final years, he served on the Race Relations Board, the Sports Council and Board of Governors of the BBC. Failing health reduced his effectiveness in some of these roles, and he faced criticism for becoming a part of the British Establishment.
He died of a heart attack on July 1, 1971.