Leeds pays tribute to Kittitian who was first Black magistrate

Mrs. Diana Phillip

BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS, JULY 25TH 2011 – Tributes have been paid to Diana Phillip, Leeds’s first black Magistrate who has died at the age of 84.

According to the Yorkshire Evening Post, Mrs. Phillip came to Leeds from the West Indian island of St. Kitts in the 1950s and soon became a pillar of the community in Chapeltown, taking a leading role in many organisations including the Citizens’ Advice Bureau, Mayflower Children’s Club, Leeds Afro-West Indian Self-Help Association and Leeds Playhouse.

A teacher by profession, she taught in several local primary schools. She was active in the British Labour Party, following a family trait – in St. Kitts and Nevis her cousin Denzil Douglas has been Prime Minister since 1995, and another cousin Robert Bradshaw was Premier from 1967 to 1978.

In the late 1960s she made history by being appointed the first black Magistrate in Leeds.

Bench chairwoman Dr. Hewell said: “We were privileged to have a person of her calibre contributing to the multi-cultural diversity of the bench, and it is a bench which reflects the cultural mix of the city.”

Michael McGowan, the former Leeds Labour Euro MP, who was a founding journalist with BBC Radio Leeds in 1968, said: “Diana became a member of the BBC Education Advisory in Leeds when we launched the first radio programmes for the Caribbean community and the special series, ‘The Black Rose’ about the benefits of immigration into the county of Yorkshire in response to the ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech by Enoch Powell in 1968.

“Diana has played an important role in Chapeltown since she arrived from St. Kitts in the 1950s and contributed a great deal to making Chapeltown such an important and vibrant community which has enriched the city of Leeds over the years.”

Mrs. Phillip died on Saturday, July 16, after a long illness. She is survived by her daughter, Jane, and four sons, Canitz, Addison, James, and Joseph. Her husband died in 1989.

The funeral was on Friday at 11am at Chapeltown Community Church.

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