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Aug 15, 2007

Emory King: dead at 76

Story PictureThere are only a handful of people in this country about whom it could be said that without their presence Belize would not be what it is today. Last night one of them died. New’s Five’s Stewart Krohn explains.

Stewart Krohn
It is difficult to describe the impact that Emory King has had on the nation’s modern history, simply because the scope of his influence has been so wide and so deep. Among Emory’s many contributions over the last half century, however, a few stand out. In 1958 he was the driving force for the welcoming of the Mennonites to Belize, and you can be sure that next year, when Spanish Lookout and Blue Creek celebrate their fiftieth anniversaries, Emory’s name will ring out like church bells. As for tourism, what is now arguably Belize’s biggest industry, he promoted and championed it at a time when it simply did not exist. And how about the movies? Emory single handedly created that industry in 1979 when he overheard a pair of Hollywood producers in the Fort George dining room lamenting that they couldn’t get anyone to take them seriously about making a feature film in Belize. A few months later The Dogs of War began shooting in Belize City, to be followed over the years by Mosquito Coast and dozens of other films, documentaries, commercials and music videos. The thousands of jobs, however temporary, and millions of dollars pumped into the economy are reverberating in many households to this day. As for politically motivated accusations that he was getting rich off a cushy job as Belize’s first film commissioner, I have personally watched him spend more of his own money on lunches for Hollywood producers than he has ever received as a government employee. And while on the subject of politics, Emory King was as loyal a member of the Peoples United Party as you will ever find. But despite his close friendships which extended to the highest ranks of the P.U.P., to my knowledge he never once asked for or received so much as an acre of government land or a dollar in government contracts. It can be safely assumed that you will never find the name of Emory King immortalized in a report by any Commission of Inquiry.

This is not to say that Emory King was anything even approaching a saint. His views on Belizean history, though deeply felt and researched, were controversial. In recent years those controversies tended to overshadow his vast body of achievement in other fields of endeavour … one of which happens to be the one you’re watching. For someone considered to be the embodiment of “old school” it must be noted that Emory—with business partner Net Vasquez—brought the first satellite earth station to Belize, and two years later—as my own business partner—founded the nation’s first television production company, Great Belize Productions, which later became the parent of this station, Channel Five. Emory for these reasons, and many more, we will always be indebted to you.

Funeral services will take place Thursday afternoon at two-thirty at Holy Redeemer Cathedral followed by interment at Tropical Park. Emory King: dead at seventy-six.

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