Prime Minister Davis’ Tribute to the Life of Leon Livingston Smith

Thank you, and please be seated.

I recognize the Governor General, the Most Honourable Cornelius A. Smith;

The bereaved family, especially the Commodore’s children Leon ll, Italia and Ingrid;  

My Cabinet and Parliamentary colleagues;

The leader of the Opposition, Michael Pintard;

Former Prime Ministers, the Rt. Hon. Hubert A. Ingraham and the Rt. Hon. Perry G. Christie;

Commander Defence Force, Commodore Raymond King.

Senior Government Officials, including those of the uniform branches of government;

Celebrant the Very Reverend Harry J. L. Bain and other ministers of the gospel;

Friends and well-wishers, a pleasant good day to all. 

My government officially marks the passing of Commander Defence Force (retired) Commodore Leon Livingstone Smith, C.D., O.B.E. 

He was the first and longest-serving Bahamian to hold such a substantive post, having served from 1983 to 1997.

The post of Commander Defence Force comes with heavy responsibilities involving the protection of our national sovereignty, securing our territorial borders from illegal and irregular breeches and guarding our heritage.

The duties the state called on Commodore Smith to perform were enforcement in nature and scope, which sometimes required the armed interdiction, engagement, arrest and detention of pirates, marauders, human smugglers, narco-terrorists, small arms smugglers and poachers in Bahamian waters.

From time to time, this institution he led would be called on to contain and quell civil unrest and restore law and order.

Those Bahamian sons and daughters who agree to answer the clarion call to place their personal safety and life at risk to protect our democracy, freedom and sovereignty are special, heroic, courageous, incorruptible and confident Bahamians.

Chief among them was Commodore Leon Smith and in expressing profound condolences to his family on behalf of the government and people of The Bahamas, I do so against this sobering backdrop and within this context.

Further, when the mission, valour and integrity of the ilk of Commodore Smith are contrasted with the social and political activism of certain Bahamians who would willingly and knowingly weaponize disinformation in an attempt to cultivate a caustic atmosphere that can lead to social and sometimes political extremism, the national importance of Bahamians like Commodore Smith as role models, as the gold standards for citizenship and for the responsible management of power come into sharper focus. 

It is also within this context that I express profound condolences and thank the Smith family for their forbearance, love and faith in the system in agreeing to share their much-cherished patriarch with the country in that capacity.

The professional accomplishments and accolades of this career public servant were many and well documented, therefore, I shall not belabour them.

I hastily point out for the record that the assertion that the Commodore’s body of work has left an indelible impression of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force and on a generation of law enforcement officers is impatient of debate.

Throughout his military career, he received numerous awards and accolades, and his career in public life spanned over forty years, and on September 19, 2014, an RBDF Legend Class Vessel bearing his name was commissioned.

As many of you know, Commodore Smith was one of sixteen well-deserving Bahamians who were honoured and I dare say officially memorialized by the state in recognition of their significant contributions to nation building on National Heroes Day in October 2021. The Order of Distinction from The Commonwealth of The Bahamas accurately described the quality of Commodore’s selfless public service over many decades.

More compelling in my humble estimation, were the tributes to his legacy by officers who joined the Royal Bahamas Defence after he would have retired. 

Such tributes represent an authentic measurement of the scope, range and impact of his leadership style and quality.

Commodore Smith is widely remembered as a disciplinarian, a relatively soft-spoken man who was a firm, but fair leader with integrity. His stewardship of the force’s assets was remarkable, especially in the area of timely maintenance of patrol vessels. 

Others remember him as a man with a great sense of humour, a comedian, and a father figure to young recruits, marines and junior officers, but with zero tolerance for corruption.

His advice to the Pindling government to recruit women and treat them equally to their male counterparts was groundbreaking and progressive for the times as he built an organizational culture of equality, even along gender lines. The Royal Bahamas Defence Force received its first squad of female recruits in 1985.

Commodore Smith would have implemented many of the policies and processes that helped to shape and influence the culture of that organization today. Such was his impact on the growth, development and policy direction of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force.

In building our country, servants and nationalists like Commodore Smith continue to provide the blueprint for laying a firm foundation and erecting solid pillars on which we continue to build and embellish our national culture, character and ethos.

Putting the interests of the country above self, protecting our sovereignty, having zero tolerance for corruption and mentoring the next generation of leaders are intangible qualities on which enduring civilizations are built. 

The meaning of life can be found within the power and immortality of these intangible gifts and intergenerational moral attributes. 

The vision, awareness and essence of Commodore Smith and other great Bahamians remain with us even as they depart this physical life.

The beauty of it all is that these gifts are free. 

Fortunately for us who remain, physical death is not the end, but a mere comma, not a full stop, in the sentence of our lives.

All of us who loved and were touched by the intangible and tangible qualities and moral attributes of Commodore must do our part in defending his reputation, his good name and in protecting his legacy because silenced by the grave, Commodore Smith can no longer defend himself or his legacy.

The government and people of The Bahamas thank retired Commodore of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force, Leon Livingstone Smith C.D., O.B.E. for his public service and for being a willing agent in guarding our heritage and protecting our territorial borders.

Further, in offering salvage and humanitarian aid in times of national crises and natural disasters, the Commodore faithfully honoured the unwritten social contract that exists between the government and its people. 

Travel on oh good and faithful servant. You ran a good race. Go on to receive your just and eternal reward. We who remain will guard your heritage and protect your legacy.

“May the angels lead you into paradise (Leon); may the martyrs receive you at your arrival and lead you to the holy city of Jerusalem. May choirs of angels receive you and with Lazarus, once a poor man, may you have eternal rest.”

On behalf of my wife, Ann Marie, Deputy Prime Minister Chester Cooper and Mrs. Cooper, the government and the people of The Bahamas, I express heartfelt condolences to the family of former Commodore of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force, Leon Livingstone Smith, especially his children on the sad occasion of his passing. 

Condolences also go out to his extended family – the entire uniform branch of the Bahamas Government, especially the Royal Bahamas Defence Force.

May his soul rest in peace.