Monday, February 19, 2018

Humble beginnings

Attorney Theodore Roosevelt Guerra, SC, passed away yesterday at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex, Mt Hope, where he was hospitalised for two weeks.

Guerra, 80, underwent surgery on December 16 and never regained consciousness.

The man who made a name for himself as an attorney came from humble beginnings and lived a colourful and eventful life.

Guerra, who was born in Diego Martin, joined the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service at the age of 17 as one of the first to enter the service as a constable with a Cambridge certificate, and was posted to Cedros.

He stayed in the Police Service for two years when, inspired by his brother, who was a law clerk, he left to pursue a legal career.

Guerra took up a job as a second class clerk at the post office, where he worked overtime just to earn enough money to study law.

After three years of hard work and savings of $9,000, he left for Lincoln House, England, in 1956 to start his studies in law. Three years later, he was called to the Bar in England.

He returned home in 1959 and, by 1965, Guerra, who was also a steelpan lover, established his own pan side called Western Philharmonics.

After eight years of practising law, Guerra's name became prominent after having his client freed in the preliminary enquiry of the Poolool murder trial.

Guerra, who was always involved in sport and other community-building activities, got into politics in 1981 as an Organisation for National Reconstruction candidate for Diego Martin West. He lost that seat, but in 1986, when he offered himself for the Port of Spain South seat, he won it for the National Alliance for Reconstruction by 400 votes.

Some other notable cases handled by Guerra include prosecution of sedition and mutiny matters arising from the 1970 army insurrection, and his representation of former commissioner of police Randolph Burroughs, who was charged with conspiracy to murder two wanted men at Lady Young Road, Morvant. The case fell apart in the Port of Spain High Court in 1987. 

Among other cases, in 1989 Guerra was a State prosecutor in the corruption case against senior magistrate Patrick Jagessar and businessman Bhola Nandlal; prosecution of Dole Chadee; lead attorney in the commission of enquiry into the Piarco Airport Development Project in 2002; and the prosecution of the treason matter against Abu Bakr and the Jamaat-al-Muslimeen after the 1990 attempted coup.

During an interview in 1989, Guerra told the Express he loved gardening and grew vegetables on his land in Santa Cruz and sold them, and also enjoyed keeping pigs and layers.

His hobby back then, he said, was growing flowers, which he also did as an export business.