George Cadle Price, PC, OCC was a Belizean statesman who served twice as head of government of Belize, from 1961 to 1984 and 1989 to 1993. He served as First Minister and Prime Minister under British rule until independence in 1981 and was the country’s first Prime Minister after independence that year. He is considered one of the key architects of Belizean independence.
George Price was born on January 15, 1919, in Belize City in what was then British Honduras to William and Irene (née Escalante) Price. He had eight sisters and two brothers. Price received his early education at Holy Redeemer Primary School and St John’s College High School (SJC) in Belize City. He survived the 1931 hurricane that destroyed SJC in Loyola Park and swam away from the wreckage. At the Jesuit school, he learned Catholic social justice teachings, especially the encyclical Rerum Novarum. After graduation, Price felt called to the priesthood and went abroad to study, first at Saint Augustine’s Minor Seminary in Mississippi, USA, and later at the Mayor Seminario Conciliar in Guatemala City.
He entered politics with his election to the Belize City Council in 1947. In 1949, when the British Honduran dollar was devalued, he and a group of citizens formed the People’s Committee. This was the beginning of the “peaceful, constructive Belizean revolution.” On September 29, 1950, he co-founded the People’s United Party (PUP), which he led for four decades, fighting for the political and economic independence of the British colony, then called British Honduras.
In 1956, Price became the party leader of the PUP. As First Minister, a post he held from 1961 to 1964, he led the team that began negotiations on independence with the United Kingdom. He retained this post as Prime Minister in 1964.
Belize gained its independence in 1981, Price served as the country’s first Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs until 1984. The PUP was defeated in the elections by the United Democratic Party under Manuel Esquivel, with Price unexpectedly losing his seat in the House of Representatives to a political newcomer. Price continued to lead the PUP from outside the National Assembly, while Florencio Marin became Leader of the Opposition.
After the electoral defeat of the PUP by the United Democratic Party under Sir Manuel Esquivel, he again took over as Prime Minister in 1989, a post he held until 1993 when he was again replaced by Esquivel. In 1982, Price became a member of the Privy Council of the United Kingdom.
In October 1996, Price announced his resignation as party leader and was formally succeeded by Said Musa on November 10, 1996. In September 2000, Price became the first person to receive Belize’s highest honor, the Order of the National Hero, for the outstanding role he had played in leading his country to independence. He also received the Order of the Caribbean Community and similar honors in other Caribbean and Latin American countries.
George Cadle Price died on September 19, 2011, at the age of 92. Almost 30 years earlier, he had united the people of Belize in the struggle for independence. Now Price united the entire people of Belize one last time, this time in mourning the death of their “Father of the Nation.” A state funeral was held on September 26, 2011. Price was buried at the Lord’s Ridge Cemetery in Belize City.