Category: Racial Equality

Roger Carrington

Claude James, pioneer, campaigner, TSSA legend

Black activist and TSSA EC member Clade James, in a suit, smiling and wearing sunglasses.

Roger Carrington remembers TSSA's first black EC member Claude James

Claude James was the first black man to rise to the position of Station Manager, the first black man to be elected to a rail union Executive Committee – the TSSA. He chaired the TUC Race Relations Committee for 25 years and continued to campaign in the community into his late 80s. He is, quite simply, a legend.

Claude was a noble member of the Windrush generation who answered the call to help rebuild the UK after the Second World War. My Mum and Dad answered that call and that’s why I’m here. And everything I am and have is because of men of principle like Claude who stood up to ignorance and blatant discrimination. He saw the notices at windows for accommodation: ‘No Blacks, Dogs or Irish’. But rather than get angry and bitter he fought back, got involved, resisted.

A special man, a very special man - It’s only now since his passing that you appreciate his legend really. I personally have always appreciated his wisdom, calmness and his ability to see the bigger picture. And to the very end he won the respect of friend and foe alike.

Claude was a real leader in our Union, providing a role model to inspire people of all races, religions and communities. But he was also a leader in the community too.

Claude became a leading figure in the tenants association for his Camden estate. He helped set up the South Hampstead and Kilburn Community Partnership to offer opportunities for people of all ages and was joint coordinator of Kilburn Older Voices Exchange. Most recently, through the National Pensioners Convention, he campaigned for British retirees who live abroad on “frozen pensions”, excluded from the annual state pension uprating.

I am now proud to be a leader in TSSA E-Mix, the group for People of Colour that Claude helped found. I hope to emulate his legacy one day. It’s big shoes to fill. Rest in peace Claude James.

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