Jan. 12, 2003 – A St. Thomas resident who describes himself as a political kingmaker in his native St. Kitts threw a 70th birthday party for himself Saturday night and invited his friends — the governor, the prime minister, some big-time developers and one of the best-known trial lawyers in the country.
And he used the occasion to recognize others for their contributions to the community.
Elridge St. Clair Tobias, along with his daughter, Shellie, recently formed an entity called Caring People United. On the occasion of the senior Tobias's birthday, the organization hosted an awards gala as its first major fund raiser, Saturday night at Wyndham Sugar Bay Resort on St. Thomas.
At the banquet, business people, educators, a student and an advocate for abused childen were the first recipients of awards named after St. Clair Tobias.
"Five years ago, we had a party for my father at Victor's Hideout for his 65th birthday," his daughter said, "and the other day, he said, 'Shellie, I need another birthday party.'"
She continued: "I told him, 'OK, but all you have to do is get Johnnie Cochran here.' And two days later, he called me back and said he was coming."
Cochran, the celebrity lawyer best known for his successful defense of O.J. Simpson in his 1995 murder trial, was, indeed, on hand Saturday night.
"Johnnie Cochran is a friend of mine," the elder Tobias said. The two met as Cochran got involved in Caribbean Lottery Services as a member of the board of its parent Leeward Islands Lottery Holding Co., and Tobias was working to help bring the games of chance to the Virgin Islands.
Gov. Charles W. Turnbull and St. Kitts and Nevis Governor General Cuthbert Sebastian were on hand Saturday, too. Denzil Douglas, prime minister of St. Kitts-Nevis, had planned to be present but ran into travel problems. St. Clair Tobias described Douglas and Sebastian as friends from his days back home as a political mover and shaker.
Turnbull was one of the night's honorees, recipient of the People's Choice Award. Tobias said Turnbull was a fitting candidate for the award because of his overpowering victory over seven political rivals in the November 2002 elections.
Caring People United also honored Dilsa Capdeville for her work at KidsCope, the struggling not-for-profit organization she founded to help young victims of abuse and crime. Shellie Tobias said she has known of the work of KidsCope for several years and got to know Capdeville better after the agency moved into a building on Education Street not far from where Tobias works at the V.I. Humanities Council offices.
Shellie Tobias says Capdeville shared with her the financial plight of KidsCope, and Tobias decided that the agency should be a major beneficiary of the first Caring People United fund raiser.
Capdeville said she recognizes that some of her associates, advocates for abused women, might have misgivings about an agency that defends and protects abuse victims benefitting from a fund raiser where Cochran was the big-ticket draw, given the Simpson controversy. But she said she saw it ambivalently as a blessing.
"I was really surprised and shocked when she first called me," Capdeville said of Shellie Tobias. "She said she wanted to honor me, but then when she said she wanted to give some of the proceeds to KidsCope, it was wonderful. I feel they are honoring the work we are doing here."
Also honored on Saturday night was the Territorial Court Rising Stars Youth Steel Orchestra, established by Judge Verne Hodge in the 1980s as a musical and academic achievement organization that functioned as well as a crime-prevention program. Shellie Tobias said Caring People United wanted to honor the Rising Stars steelpan instructors, but the organization only accepts honors for the orchestra as a whole.
Because of his own work in attracting investors to the territory, St. Clair Tobias decided to give out Economic Impact Awards to several honorees: Stephen Feinberg, managing partner of Botany Bay Partners; Robert L. Johnson and Robert Washington of Caribbean Lottery Services and Leeward Islands Lottery; and the attorneys who helped the V.I. government float a $300 million bond issue that led to payments for many of the government's vendors and raises for some government employees.
The group also honored William Dowling of Cardow Jewelers and the Carib Beach and Emerald Beach Resorts with its Corporate Citizen Award; Krystal Edmead of Charlotte Amalie High School with its Outstanding Student Award; and Reynald Charles, an owner of WGOD Radio, with its Civic Award.
Edmead and Charles were present; Dowling was represented by Amy Colon.
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