Paul Scoon, Who Invited Grenada Invaders, Dies at 78


Paul Scoon, who vaulted from the mainly ceremonial post of governor general of Grenada to the role of power broker when the United States invaded his Caribbean nation in 1983, died on Sept. 2 in St. Paul’s, Grenada. He was 78, as Douglas Martin reports in this obituary for The New York Times.

The government there announced his death without giving a cause. He had long been treated for diabetes.

Mr. Scoon had been a top-tier bureaucrat in Grenada in 1978 when Queen Elizabeth II appointed him to the position of governor general, the throne’s official representative in a British Commonwealth country. With little administrative authority, the position typically promises a placid time in office. But Mr. Scoon’s tenure became anything but calm.

He was arrested when leftists took over the government in a coup on March 13, 1979. But he was returned to his post when the new prime minister, Maurice Bishop, decided to retain Grenada’s membership in the Commonwealth. Mr. Scoon, he thought, would be a symbol of stability and continuity. The two men became tennis partners. In Washington, however, there was uneasiness about Grenada’s leftward turn.

Then, on Oct. 14 1983, with Ronald Reagan in the White House, a more radical leftist faction within the Grenadan government seized power with the army’s help. Mr. Bishop was arrested and replaced by Bernard Coard, the deputy prime minister. Five days later, after chanting protesters freed Mr. Bishop from house arrest, he and other ministers were killed by troops.

At that point Mr. Scoon, using his acknowledged constitutional authority, invited the United States and Caribbean nations to intervene militarily. He was soon placed under house arrest.

The coup jolted Washington. The new, explicitly Marxist-Leninist government in Grenada raised the prospect of a third socialist center in the Western Hemisphere, joining Cuba and Nicaragua. The Reagan administration was also worried about the safety of some 1,000 American citizens on the island, many of them medical students. The president decided to invade.

On Oct. 23, forces from the United States and Caribbean nations massed on Barbados, 150 miles east of Grenada. Two days later, in an air and amphibious assault, nearly 8,000 American troops and more than 300 from the Caribbean landed in Grenada. A Navy SEAL team rescued Mr. Scoon from house arrest, and the invaders overcame resistance with little trouble. Hostilities ended in early November, leaving 19 Americans, 45 Grenadians and 25 Cubans dead.

With the leftists ousted, Mr. Scoon, as acting head of government, appointed an advisory council, which named a temporary prime minister. Democratic elections were held in December 1984.

The United States defended the action as regional peacekeeping, although it lacked approval from the United Nations or the Organization of American States, and as necessary to protect Americans and provide humanitarian aid.

On Oct. 27, 1983, Washington officials released a letter, dated Oct. 24 — the day before the invasion — that they said Mr. Scoon had written requesting armed intervention by the United States and Grenada’s Caribbean neighbors. The letter was seen as buttressing the case that the invasion was a multilateral police action, not an act of American imperialism.

A debate ensued over whether the United States had asked for the letter, or perhaps had even drafted it after the invasion. American officials denied these suspicions. Mary Eugenia Charles, the prime minister of Dominica, said Mr. Scoon had requested military help even earlier than Oct. 24, through secret diplomatic channels.

Nonetheless, in “Survival for Service,” an autobiography published in 2003, Mr. Scoon wrote that the letter of Oct. 24 was not his. He said it had been written in Barbados and delivered to him on Oct. 27. But he confirmed Prime Minister Charles’s statement that he had asked for international military aid through diplomatic channels before the invasion.

Paul Scoon, the son of a butcher, was born on July 4, 1935, in Gouyave, a fishing village on Grenada’s western coast in the heart of spice and cocoa country. Like many British subjects in Commonwealth countries, he went to college in England, earning a degree in education from the University of Leeds. He went on to obtain a master’s degree from the University of Toronto.

He returned to Grenada to teach high school, where he liked to quote Shakespeare and Chaucer in his commanding voice. He rose to be the equivalent of school superintendent for the island, then the No. 2 official in the Education Ministry. Among other posts, he was deputy director of the Commonwealth Foundation, an organization based in London that promotes professional development.

After being governor general, he was chairman of the Grenada Board of Tourism.

Mr. Scoon married Esmai McNeilly in 1970. She is deceased. Information on survivors was unavailable.

In 2004, Mr. Scoon said he considered President Reagan to have been one of the greatest American presidents and a great world leader. “I think his men really saved us,” he said.

For the original report go to

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