Press Release

Premier's Office
Release Date:
Thursday, 16 July 2015 - 8:30am

Premier and Minister of Finance, Dr. the Honourable D. Orlando Smith, OBE, has stated that he is pleased to be part of the celebrations for an extraordinary son of the soil who paved the way for the prosperity that BVIslanders now enjoy.

In a tribute to the life of the late Honourable Willard Wheatley, MBE, LLD, on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of his birth, Premier Smith remembers the former Chief Minister of as an exemplary British Virgin Islander who placed the Territory at the forefront of everything he did.       

The Premier said, “A political giant as our second Chief Minister and first Minister of Finance, we pay tribute to his legacy and life.  I applaud the Willard Wheatley Centennial Celebration Committee for organising this memorial service and week of activities, to ensure that, as a people, the Chief Minister and his contributions to the growth and progress of the Territory are remembered. May we never forget our history.”

The week of activities highlighting the life and legacy of Honourable Wheatley commenced on Sunday, July 12, and concludes on Sunday, July 19. 

The events include a radio programme on ZBVI Radio Station aired on Tuesday, July 14 and a presentation during the weekly meeting of the Rotary Club of Tortola on Thursday, July 16. The celebrations will culminate with a Commemoration Service on Sunday, July 19, at the Willard Wheatley Primary School in Major Bay at 3:30 p.m. 

The Honourable Willard Wheatley was born to Charles and Cornelia Wheatley on July 16, 1915 at East End, Tortola. 

As Chief Minister in 1977, and at the helm of the Territory’s economic recovery effort, Honourable Wheatley led the Virgin Islands off of grant-in-aid. It was in 1976 that a major constitutional development took place, resulting in the greatest degree of autonomy which enabled the BVI to become one of the most constitutionally advanced of the dependencies. 

This level of freedom paved the way for the creation of the Ministry of Finance, thus empowering the Honourable Wheatley to take charge of the finances of the Territory as the first Chief Minister and Minister of Finance. By the end of 1979, the third year of his second term, the Virgin Islands boasted of a surplus of over one point five million dollars. This surplus increased to two million dollars by the end of 1979.

Premier Smith stated, “Having received such a solid fiscal foundation so many years ago, the Territory is now positioned to control and manage our financial and business matters and, with the Medium Term Fiscal Plan and improved budgeting, to strengthen growth and secure our future.”

The Premier added that through the commitment, vision and sacrifice, of the late former Chief Minister, the Territory now has a high level of financial freedom which promotes the high quality business and regulatory environment of which it is proud.

The late Honourable Wheatley received many honours including the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) for his service to education and the naming of the Willard Wheatley Primary School in his honour. He also received international accolades such as the key to the city of Shreveport, Louisiana, a Honourary Doctor of Laws from Pepperdine University of California, and he is also listed in the 1976 edition of Men of Achievement published by Melrose Press of Cambridge, England.


Berta McKelly Adams

Assistant Information Officer
Department of Information & Public Relations 
Telephone: 468-2740