Mr R Danny Williams, a life industry giant and patriot extraordinaire

We recall a delightful interview we had with Mr R Danny Williams in 2020 when his baby, Life of Jamaica (now Sagicor) marked its 50th birthday.

Our story noted the pride with which he spoke of the company as he shared that the process to start the business was guided by a zeal to create a truly Jamaican financial sector.

The year was 1970 and, at the time, the financial industry was extremely small, Mr Williams told us. There were, he said, about 17 foreign companies operating here in the banking and insurance sectors and, apart from Citizens Bank, which had been formed in 1968, the financial sector was completely foreign-owned.

The upshot, he noted, was that all the profits made in Jamaica were shipped abroad. Very little, as far as the life insurance industry was concerned, was invested in Jamaica, Mr Williams said, then stated, as extreme example, that "even urine samples were sent to Canada for testing".

Being the true patriot, the young Mr R Danvers Williams would have none of it, so he set about creating Jamaica's first domestically-owned life insurance company. The fact that from the first day Life of Jamaica received heavy support was an indication of the desire among Jamaicans to have a local company handle their life insurance portfolios. We believe, too, that national pride had an influence.

Additionally, though, we would not be surprised to learn that Mr Williams' reputation in the industry had guided many clients to Life of Jamaica, for he had distinguished himself as a salesman after he started working at North American Life Assurance Company in 1953.

Within seven years he was appointed branch manager for Jamaica and over the next decade he guided the branch to the number one position in the company's international network.

Today the company is easily one of the largest and most successful in Jamaica, having expanded into other services, including banking, and can take a bow for the significant role it played in 'Jamaicanising' the financial sector.

Mr Williams, though, was not all about running a successful business. He had a penchant for helping people, especially those who struggle to make ends meet. Stories of his philanthropy are many and deeply moving because he has done so much and more to improve people's lives.

That passion to contribute to the development of his country also saw him serving as a senator, minister of state, and minister of industry and commerce respectively between 1977 and 1980. He also sat on several boards, including Jamaica Broilers Group as director emeritus; Jamaica College as chairman; the Alkali Group, Virginia Dare (Jamaica) Limited, and Mavis Bank Coffee Factory Limited. Additionally, he served as president of the Jamaica Association for the Deaf for 10 years; chairman of the Jamaica Movement for the Advancement of Literacy; and the National Development Foundation of Jamaica, as well as vice-president of the Jaycees of Jamaica and the West Indies Jaycees.

In 1972 the Government invested Mr Williams with the Commander of the Order of Distinction and in 1993 made him a member of the Order of Jamaica, the country's fourth-highest national honour. Richly deserved honours for a man who served his country with all his heart, a man who was, indeed, a giant among men.

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