This is my tribute to him ….love you!
VALDEMAR ALEXANDER HILL, SR.
Legislator, Historian, Author
1914 – 1976
Valdemar Alexander Hill, Sr., served his community significantly as a public servant, a historian, an author, and a poet. It was as a legislator, however, that his influence was most deeply felt. Elected to the Municipal Council of St. Thomas/St. John, he served three consecutive terms–1940, 1942, 1944. Considered one of the most influential councilmen of his era, he sponsored legisla tion that profoundly improved the way of life for many, especially the working classes. Much of his legislation also served as the basis for future similar legislation.
His political involvement began under the aegis of the Progressive Guide, the first political party in the Virgin Islands. The birth of the Progressive Guide and the implementation of the 1936 Organic Act were closely linked. Prior to 1936 there was little or no home rule, but in that year Congress approved the first code of laws which was to serve as the plan of government of the territory. One of the sweeping changes of this act included universal suffrage granted to American citizens twenty-one years or older who could read and write the English language. This voting right replaced the former limitations on voting, which included personal assets and the sex of the voter.
To help the masses understand the intent and implications of this act, the Progressive Guide came into being and, as explained by Hill, its major goal was to “break the economic shackles of the working masses of Black people once and for all.”
In 1940, under the banner of the Progressive Guide, Hill was elected to the Municipal Council. He was the sponsor of the Hill Wage and Hour Bill which was designed to fix minimum wages and maximum hours. Passed by the Council, the bill was opposed by merchants who organized themselves into a Businessmen’s Committee to fight its passage. After much activity, the bill became law. Other bills he sponsored aided the masses in the areas of rent control, improved housing, sanitation, hospitalization, welfare or relief programs and included the first Anti-Discrimination Bill of 1945.
In 1944, Hill was elected chairman of the Municipal Council and also became secretary to the Legislative Assembly, a joint body made up of both Municipal Councils.
In 1946, he was appointed tax assessor and later served as consultant to Governor Morris F. de Castro and Governor Walter A. Gordon, and as Commissioner of Housing and Community Renewal.
He continued to be involved in the political accomplishments of the territory, and when the Unity Party replaced the Progressive Guide, Valdemar Hill was on its executive committee. As a member of the Organic Act Commission, a citizen’s group appointed to revise the existing Organic Act with emphasis on restructuring the government and grant ing specific rights including election of a governor, he played an important role in helping the party to achieve greater self rule.
When the Elective Governor Act was enacted and ready for implementation in 1970, Valdemar Hill entered the race in the Democratic primary, but failed to be nominated.
In addition to his legislative terms, Hill was a member of the St. Thomas/St. John Board of Education and was chairman of this board in 1944. He was also chairman of the St. Thomas Library Commission for approximately fifteen years.
In 1945, the joint Municipal Councils honored him at a testimonial dinner and presented him with a resolution which recognized his “brilliant career of achievements in the local legislative body—in bodies representing the Virgin Islands in the outside world and for the intrinsic benefits these have meant and still mean to the people of the Virgin Islands.” In 1987, one of the prominent streets on St. Thomas was named in his honor: the Valdemar Hill Drive.
A self-made man, he earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and a law degree through correspondence courses. In 1973, he embarked on a new phase in life as he established the Virgin Islands Forum, a monthly magazine which featured local history, current events, the author’s views and works of local poets and other writers. He is also the author of two books, Golden Jubilee, 1967, written in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the transfer of the Danish West Indies to the United States and Rise to Recognition, 1970, an informal history of the social and political progress of Virgin Islanders.
Born on May 1, 1914, he was married to the former Florence Molyneaux, a union which produced nine children: Elsie, Elroy, Edwin, Valdemar, Jr., Donald, Ivan Roger, Kathleen Hill Dyer, and Alicia Hill Mills. At the time of his death on May 9, 1976, he was serving as Legislative Counsel to the local legislature.
Panoramic view from the Valdemar A Hill Dr. Senic Drive St. Thomas, VI