Roy Hackett, who died aged 93 in April 1963, stood in the middle of Fishponds Road in Bristol to block the entrance to the city’s main bus station. As one of the organizers of the Bristol Bus Boycott, his mission was to call attention to the Bristol Omnibus Company’s refusal to hire black and Asian people as conductors and drivers.

Hackett’s planned boycott with three colleagues, Paul Stephenson, Owen Henry and Guy Reid-Bailey, lasted four months before the company intervened. Strictly enforced color bar – promoted and supported by Transport and General Staff. The union was completely legal. Hackett’s mobilization helps persuade Harold Wilson’s Labor government to introduce the first piece of anti-racism legislation in Britain: the Race Relations Act 1965.

Although there were threats to Hackett from some members of the public, there was widespread support for the boycott, including from local MP Tony Benn and Wilson, who was then Leader of the Opposition. Eventually negotiations were held between the bus company, which claimed it did not want to introduce the color bar, and the TGWU, which supported it on the grounds that it protected jobs for “local” people. Negotiations led to a vote among bus workers in late August 1963 in favor of repealing the ordinance, and the following month Raghbir Singh became Bristol’s first non-white bus conductor.

Roy Hackett's role in the Bristol bus boycott has been commemorated on a mural in Bristol.
Roy Hackett’s role in the Bristol bus boycott has been commemorated on a mural in Bristol. Photo: Olumedia/The Guardian

Hackett was born in Trench Town, Kingston, Jamaica, where he worked various jobs, including working in a pharmacy, working on a coffee plantation, and selling insurance, but was unable to make a decent living. In 1952, at the age of 24, he decided to move to England in search of better opportunities.

Arriving by ship to Liverpool, he initially lived what he described as a “dog life”, with difficulty finding work and the reluctance of many landlords to house blacks.

When things didn’t work out in Liverpool, he moved first to Wolverhampton and then to London, where he found a back-breaking job at the engineering firm Taylor Woodrow.

In 1956 he moved west with Taylor Woodrow to become a construction worker helping to build Hinkley Point power station in Somerset before moving to Sir Robert McAlpine in Llanvern, south Wales. There he worked mainly as a laborer on construction sites, but also spent time as a “tea boy” with soon-to-be-famous pop star Tom Jones, who mildly irritated him with his constant singing.

Arriving in Bristol, Hackett was forced to spend his first night in the city sleeping on a doorstep after being turned away by a series of landlords. When he found lodgings in the St. Pauls area, he and his cousin Irving Williams shared a room with him and three other men.

It was in Bristol that Hackett befriended a local black activist, travel agent Owen Henry, “who gave me a lot to think about and said we needed to create something to address the council’s attitude towards the black population” – particularly in relation to housing and employment.

In 1962, the couple, along with two others, Clifford Drummond and Audley Evan, became founding members of the Union Coordinating Committee, meeting on Sundays at the Speedy Bird Cafe, where they “drank fish tea and Red Stripe beer and listened to calypso music, with a paraffin heater to keep warm.” “.

With Hackett as public relations officer and Henry as chairman, by 1963 the committee brought into its orbit Paul Stevenson, a British-born social worker of mixed heritage, as its president and spokesman. When Reid-Bailey, then a young member of the CCC, reported that he had applied for a job as a bus conductor and been turned down because of his color, Stephenson, Hackett, Henry and Bailey decided to take action by forming a new organization. body, the West Indian Development Board – and the bus boycott was born.

Allied to his lifelong work in construction, Hackett remained a formidable campaigner long after his 1963 victory and continued to organize in the community. He continued his involvement in and campaigned through the CCC, now known as the Bristol West Indian Parents and Friends Association. for better living and employment conditions for blacks in the city. He and the CCC were also involved in organizing the St Pauls festival in Bristol which began in 1968 and continued for several years until it became the annual St Pauls carnival.

A humble man, Hackett was delighted by the respect shown to him in Bristol in his later years and was proud to note that his grandson had a picture of him on the wall at his school. He also remained committed to supporting the black community in Bristol, joking that “a lot of young people ask me if I can help them and I always say yes as long as I can sit in the shadows”.

Half a century after the boycott, the TGWU’s successor union, Unite, apologized for the mistake, and the following year, in 2014, Hackett and surviving organizers attended the unveiling of a commemorative plaque at Bristol bus station. In 2019, a mural of him was painted on the city wall by artist Michele Curtis, although the mural came down in 2021 and there is a crowd-pleasing appeal for its restoration. In 2020, Hackett was appointed MBE.

He is survived by three children, Dawn and Clive, from his marriage to Ena, which ended in divorce in 1959, and Claudette from a previous relationship.

Lurel Roy Hackett, activist, born 19 September 1928; He died on August 3, 2022

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