Remembering the Life of Eugene Dupuch

By: Caribbean Journal Staff - September 15, 2011

By Sir Arthur Foulkes

Judge Nathaniel Jones, a distinguished Judge of United States 6th Circuit Court of Appeal and former General Counsel for the NAACP, once surveyed the large number of persons entering the legal profession in that country and commented that there was always room for one more good lawyer.

No doubt his definition of a good lawyer would have included a number of qualifications such as: a thorough knowledge of the law, familiarity with the history and philosophy of the law, as well as the ability competently to articulate, explain and relate the law to the society. Most certainly, it would also have included character, integrity and a realization that the legal profession is in the service of justice and of the best interests of individual clients and the wider community.

I should like now to say a few words about a great Bahamian lawyer with the hope that his life will serve as an inspiration and perhaps help to define some aspirations for yourselves.

I never tire of reminding Bahamians of what a talented people we are, and have always been, and pointing to the extraordinary Bahamians whose lives and world class accomplishments have provided abundant proof of this. The person after whom this institution was named, the Hon. Eugene Dupuch, was one such extraordinarily gifted, multi-talented and accomplished Bahamian.

He possessed all of the qualifications and qualities of which I have just spoken, and then some, and I consider myself fortunate to have known him and, on occasion, to have worked with him.

Mr. Dupuch did not start the study of law until 1944 when he was 31. Prior to that he was a journalist, assisting his distinguished brother, Sir Etienne Dupuch, at The Nassau Daily Tribune.

I believe that there were two events that led him to take up the law.

One was an attempt in the 40s to ruin his brother and The Tribune with a libel action brought by four members of the Old Guard with whom Sir Etienne did battle at the time. Sir Etienne took legal advice from a lawyer friend but decided to represent himself in court. It was a dangerous time for the crusading editor and the newspaper, indeed, for the country. But he finally won the case.Another event was the trial of Count Alfred de Marigny for the murder of his father-in-law Sir Harry Oakes in 1943. Sir Harry was a benefactor of the Colony of the Bahama Islands and one of the richest men in the world at the time, and so his brutal murder aroused the keen interest of the international press.

Eugene Dupuch covered that trial for The Tribune and also assisted international news agencies and newspapers that were represented by his brother, most of whom sent reporters to Nassau for the trial. His reportage was thorough and accurate, so much so that it was decided to publish it in book form. That book was subsequently used in law schools on both sides of the Atlantic to study the Oakes murder trial.

I have no doubt that the broad knowledge accumulated by Eugene Dupuch as a journalist and his own innate passion for being thorough and accurate served him well in the study and practice of the law. I suggest you take note both of the value of wide-ranging knowledge and the imperatives of thoroughness and accuracy.

Mr. Dupuch’s special interest in constitutional law stood him in good stead to contribute to the political and constitutional development of the Bahamas. He was a delegate to the 1963 conference in London that resulted in the first codified constitution for the Bahamas.

He was also an advisor to the Opposition Free National Movement’s delegation at the 1972 Independence Constitutional Conference in London. I was privileged to be a member of that delegation.

You may not specialize in constitutional law but I urge you as citizens of the Bahamas to know our Constitution, not only as it is written but the whole idea and philosophy of our parliamentary form of government, a system which fundamentally arises out of the desire of people to be governed by their own elected representatives.

I believe that if more of us understood our Constitution better we would not advocate importing into our system elements of the United States Constitution which is quite a different animal.

If you didn’t know his history you would be forgiven at this point for thinking that Eugene Dupuch’s personality must have been rather serious and severe. Indeed, he was very serious about the law but he once joked that a photograph of him on his office wall made him look like Robespierre, who was associated with the Reign of Terror during the French Revolution.Eugene Dupuch had, in fact, a most delightful personality.

He could communicate with people from every walk of life, and he was by nature a very humorous person who loved a good joke and delighted in laughter. In fact, Mr. Dupuch was the unequalled master of the Bahamian dialect which, as you know, lends itself well to the expression of humour.

He created a cast of characters for “Smokey Joe”, a weekly humorous commentary on Bahamian politics, society and manners. It was published in The Tribune and delivered by Mr. Dupuch himself on ZNS Radio, earning him the nick-name Smokey.

As a reporter covering the Supreme Court back in the day, I can tell you that Eugene Dupuch was not above mixing a little humour with the serious business of law.I can see him now explaining and demonstrating to the English judge, Sir Guy Henderson, the difference between the classical “stab” and the Bahamian “jook”, much to the delight of the spectators. On another occasion, during a cross-examination Mr. Dupuch moved from his place at the table and took a few steps towards towards the witness.

Sir Guy was horrified. “Mr. Dupuch! I have never before seen you employ these American advancing tactics!” To which Mr. Dupuch quickly retorted: “No M’Lord, and never before have I been so incensed by a lying witness!”

Again, much to the delight of the spectators who obviously agreed that the witness was indeed a liar. Eugene Dupuch was an accomplished musician who played the piano and other instruments and was at one time a member of a leading dance orchestra.

He wrote the prize-winning “Johnny Fight Song” for St. John’s University, Minnesota. I once saw Mr. Dupuch playing the smooth edge of a steel saw with a violin bow.

Not too many of us are blessed with the array of talents that Eugene Dupuch possessed. But I suggest that to be a well-rounded person one must have interests outside one’s particular profession or occupation.

We humans are above all a species of culture. We cannot as individuals be happy without culture, and we most certainly cannot be happy as a nation unless we pay attention the development and enjoyment of our culture.

At the same time we must have an interest in and appreciation for the cultures of other peoples.Eugene Dupuch had all of these things and that made him a great lawyer, a great Bahamian and a great human being.

The preceding is a transcript of remarks given by Bahamian Governor General Sir Arthur Foulkes at the graduation of the Eugene Dupuch Law School on Sep. 13.

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