Elmo D., A Legend for We- Elmo Delano Roebuck Sr.
Updated: Feb 21
52 Ancestor Prompt: Legend
Just a few months shy of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's visit to the United States Virgin Islands, Elmo Delano Roebuck Sr. was born. It was October 31st, 1934 in Queens Quarter, St, Thomas, when he made Nathalia Ingerberg King, my grandfather's sister, and Ector Carlos Roebuck parents for the 2nd time. This would also be the day that would forever force his father Ector to share his own October 31st birthday in their house on Store Gronne Grade. By the 1940's the Roebuck family grew with 5 more children named Doreen, Aubrey, Bernard, Elaine and Bernice in addition to Elmo and his older brother Ector Jr.
Elmo went to Charlotte Amalie High School where he graduated in 1952 as valedictorian. He traveled stateside to attend the HBCU Hampton University in Virginia from which he received a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a minor in accounting. He put himself through college working in restaurants with duties ranging from dishwasher to short order cook.
However, the 4 year appeal of stateside living did not keep him from returning home in 1956. Elmo became a teacher for his alma mater where he taught English and Commercial Studies for 5 years along with starting a modern dance class.
1952 was the year the Tourism Development Board was inaugurated in the Virgin Islands. As the sugar business had declined, tourism was the new directive for earning wages. Islanders began to provide more businesses and entertainment that catered to visitors. This included Elmo, who on Saturday nights would perform dances from the 1920's at the Hilton and Virgin Isle Hotel as part of a group in the Frangi Pani room.
Elmo married Providencia Alicia, a St. Thomian woman of Puerto Rican heritage on September 10, 1960. Together, they had 3 children Kasmin, Nicole and Elmo Jr.
Three years later, Elmo was named head of the Department of Housing and Community Renewal. He implemented plans for affordable housing to keep it clean and safe by constructing and improving buildings in many areas. This position made him the youngest Virgin Islander to hold that level of post and gave him a taste for politics.
Originally joining with the Unity party, Elmo left to help organize the New Democratic party in 1970 with Alexander Farrelly. That was the first year Virgin Islanders were given the right to vote for their own governor. In 1972, he won a Senate position which he held for eight terms and was given the slogan, "Elmo D, the Man for We." His political progression garnered him a listing in the Millennium edition of Who's Who of American Politics for the year spanning 1999-2000.
The Virgin Islands changed hands from Danish rule to the United States in 1917. There are still many cultural ties to Denmark ranging from architecture, food and language within the Virgin Island creole dialect. It is not strange to find groups from Denmark visiting and touring the islands even today. This pilgrimage was once made by Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, when she bestowed the title of knighthood- the Kommander AF Dannebrogordenen, with a key to Elmo at the Government House during her visit to the islands in 1976. He was one of 8 to receive this award from the Danish Consul including Governor Cyril E. King, Senator Fritz Lawaetz, Eva Lawaetz, James Bough, Hein Christensen, Dr. Sven Larsen, Dr. John Moorhead and Enid Baa.
Ector Roebuck and his son Elmo represented Virgins Islands culture in the 1990 Smithsonian Folk Life Festival in the category of traditional storytelling and games. Known for performing with his ukulele, Elmo would put on African regalia to tell Bru Nansi and jumbie stories with his father . This would happen across the island in classrooms, cultural events and if you were lucky enough to be family, your own yard.
His wife Provie passed away in 1996 and Elmo retired from public office 2 years later. On March 29th, 2003, he caught the wedding bug and married Pierina Jacobs McBrowne in Frederick Lutheran Church. They enjoyed 6 years together before he left us on March 17th, 2009.
On March 25th, 2011, Long Bay Road in St. Thomas was renamed Elmo D. Roebuck, Sr. Drive. Elmo laid to rest his stories with his soul.