Official website of the PDM Turks and Caicos

Peoples Democratic Movement

Honourable James Alexander George Smith (JAGS) McCartney

The late Honourable James Alexander George Smith (JAGS) McCartney was born on June 30, 1945 to parents Harvey and Sally McCartney on the island of Grand Turk. Named after a Jamaican Lawyer, JAG Smith, at birth, he was not expected to live beyond three weeks due to a heart murmur, a condition that would in the future prevent him from being enlisted in the US Army during the Vietnam War. Despite this condition, JAGS lived a practically healthy and

active childhood life.


The Honourable McCartney was primarily educated in Grand Turk but later attended a Quaker School in Portland, Jamaica where he excelled in sports, in particular swimming and tract and field. After graduating from School in Jamaica, JAGS returned home at the age of 17 where he found employment and immediately took interests in formulating sporting and social programmes for the youth to provide them some escape from the apathy in which they were

submerged. As a result of sub-par economic and social conditions, JAGS saw it fit, as was the case with many Turks and Caicos Islanders at that time, to go abroad. JAGS journeyed to Freeport Grand Bahama where he found employment with the Grand Bahama Hotel. He cited his encounters in Freeport as helping him to become more interested in politics. In fact, he actively campaigned on behalf of the Bahamas PLP party during the 1967 elections. Also during his tenure in the Bahamas, JAGS spearheaded the first major strike at the Grand Bahama Hotel in an attempt to gain better working conditions for the staff. Even in another country he fought for the better treatment of his native people.


In 1971 JAGS returned home after an eight-year stint abroad. He immediately dove into the political arena, contesting a seat in the 1972 elections. Though viewed as an outsider to many, the seat was closely contested but the end result was a loss by a slim margin. Instead of sulking in defeat, JAGS used this encounter as a motivating tool for the 1976 general elections. The Honourable McCartney started the Junkanoo Club, a forum where young people could discuss issues and socialize in general. This “movement” was the nucleus of the People’s Democratic Movement (PDM) which was established in 1975. One of the prevailing issues that was addressed was that of police brutality. In many cases, JAGS brought in his father who was a lawyer, to help defend the right of the poor and disenfranchised. There was a lot of tension between the police and the Junkanoo Club but due to the efforts of Mr. McCartney and the Club and also other factors, a historic agreement was reached and Turks and Caicos Islanders celebrated June 6th as “Human Rights Day”.


Having more time to prepare, the Honourable McCartney’s second attempt at campaigning was better organised than the first. Initially known as the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), JAGS and his party went on a nation - wide campaign to outline the objectives of the PDP. Some of these objectives were to improve the employment situation so people would not have to journey abroad for better economic conditions, enhance the tourism industry, establishing other light industries including a trade centre, developing a local university; basically it was his intention to improve economic and social conditions to provide Turks and Caicos Islanders with a high standard of living.


In 1974, shifting his attention from the campaign trail, the Honourable McCartney married Dorothy McCartney of Grand Turk with whom he would have three children.


In 1976, the People’s Democratic Party (which was later renamed People’s Democratic Movement PDM) was elected to a four term in office by winning five of the eleven contested seats, while an independent who had won another seat aligned himself with them. The Honourable JAGS McCartney became the youngest in-office leader in the Commonwealth at the age of 31 and was elected the first Chief Minister of the Turks and Caicos Islands.


Honourable McCartney was instrumental in the establishment of the ministerial form of internal self - government in the Islands. Another of his notable achievements was his efforts in the development of Club Med Hotel to assist the Turks and Caicos economy during a time when the British Government sought to restrict assistance to the Islands. He made representations to the United Nations on behalf of his people in order to jump start this development in the country.

Honourable McCartney was reputable for his kindness and bravery, his uncanny ability to relate to all persons, and his ability to see beyond political affiliation will never be matched by another politician. Many stories are told of where he helped people recover their properties which was unfairly taken and ensure that the poor and disenfranchised rights were upheld. He helped many people no matter who they were or where they were from, he defended all Turks and Caicos



Unfortunately tragedy struck on May 9, 1980, when the Chief Minister lost his life in a plane crash over New Jersey. He died at the age of 35 years old.