Professor George Maxwell Richards, TC, CMT, PhD, was the fourth President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, and served two consecutive terms spanning 2003-2013. He was the first President who was not an Attorney-at-Law but had a distinguished academic career in chemical engineering.
Early Life and Education
Professor Richards was born on 1st December 1931 in San Fernando to George, a barrister, and Henrietta Martin, a teacher. He was one of five children. He received his primary education at the San Fernando E.C. School, before winning a scholarship to Queen's Royal College in Port of Spain. He was also the recipient of a scholarship to study chemical engineering from United British Oilfields of Trinidad Ltd. He pursued chemical engineering at the University of Manchester where he obtained a bachelor’s (1955) and a master’s degree (1957), and later obtained a PhD degree from Pembroke College, University of Cambridge (1963).
Between 1950 and 1951, he started in the oil industry as a staff trainee with United British Oilfields of Trinidad Ltd., Point Fortin. From 1957 to 1965, he held a number of managerial posts at Shell Trinidad Ltd. (previously United British Oilfields of Trinidad Ltd.).
In 1965, he joined the teaching staff at the St. Augustine Campus, University of the West Indies (UWI), eventually securing the position of Professor of Chemical Engineering in 1970. During his UWI tenure, he served as Senior Lecturer and Head of the Department of Chemical Engineering, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering, and ascended the ranks to hold positions of Deputy Principal and Pro-Vice Chancellor. Professor Richards was Principal of this tertiary institution from 1985-1996. He is credited with contributing to the establishment and development of an internationally recognised Faculty of Engineering at this university. He was also instrumental in the establishment of the UWI Institute of Business (UWI-IOB) which became the Arthur Lok Jack Global School of Business.
Professor Richards has served on the board of several local companies, including the Trinidad Publishing Company Limited (TPC), Trinidad and Tobago Oil Company Limited (TRINTOC), the National Gas Company of Trinidad and Tobago Limited (NGC), the Salaries Review Commission, the National Training Board, the National Advisory Council, the Institute of Marine Affairs (IMA) and the UWI-IOB. He was also a member of several professional societies, including the Association of Professional Engineers of Trinidad and Tobago, the Institute of Chemical Engineers (London), the Institute of Petroleum (London) and the Royal Society of Chemistry (London).
He was sworn in as the President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago on March 17, 2003. He was inaugurated for a second term on March 17, 2008 until he demitted the Office of the President on March 17, 2013. During his presidential tenure, he was vocal on the crime situation in the country, and lobbied for the independence of Trinidad and Tobago’s Service Commissions and Parliament. As holder of the Office of the President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, which is the Patron of the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee and the Trinidad and Tobago Commonwealth Games Association, he inspired the local sporting teams with his unwavering support.
He received two National Awards: the Chaconia Medal (Gold) for Public Service in 1977 and the Trinity Cross in 2003. In 2003, he was also named Alumnus of the Year by UMIST, and received the Certificate of Honorary Fellowship from the Institution of Chemical Engineers (United Kingdom) and the Republic Day Award by Citizens for a Better Trinidad and Tobago (CBTT). In 2004, he was elected to an Honorary Fellowship at Pembroke College. The Degree of Doctor of Letters (DLitt) was conferred on him by the University of Sheffield in 2005. He became the first Chancellor of the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT) from 2005 to 2013. In 2006, he was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Letters from UWI and in 2007, an Honorary Doctorate from Heriot-Watt University.
“Max” as he was fondly called, passed away on January 8, 2018 at the age of eighty-six (86). He was married to Dr. Jean Ramjohn-Richards, the cousin of former President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago Noor Hassanali and Olympic long-distance runner Manny Ramjohn. They had two children, Mark and Maxine. He was well known for his involvement in Carnival, as a masquerader and host of the popular, annual all-inclusive party, “Friends to the Max.” According to Baptiste-Clarke, Professor Max Richards introduced the all-inclusive fete concept to Trinidad and Tobago.
Bagoo, Andre. “A Day in the Life of the President.” Newsday, 3 Mar. 2008, archives.newsday.co.tt/2008/03/03/a-day-in-the-life-of-the-president/. Accessed 27 May 2021.
Baptiste-Clarke, Dionne. “Watch: UWI Fete 2020 Honours Former President Max Richards.” Loop News, 30 Jan. 2020, tt.loopnews.com/content/watch-uwi-fete-2020-honours-former-president-max-richards. Accessed 1 Jun. 2021.
Connelly, Corey. “Guard of Honour for Max Today as he demits Office.” Newsday, 17 Mar. 2013, pp. 3, 21.
“George Maxwell Richards.” 50th Anniversary of Independence Commemorative Special, Newsday, 31 Aug. 2012, p. 68.
“George Maxwell Richards.” Trinidad & Tobago Icons Vol 2, NIHERST, icons.niherst.gov.tt/icon/george-maxwell-richards-tt2/. Accessed 2 Oct. 2020.
“George Maxwell Richards, Former President of the Republic Dies.” Tv6tnt.com,
9 Jan. 2018, www.tv6tnt.com/news/local/george-maxwell-richards-former-president-of-the-republic-dies/article_cf47382c-f4d3-11e7-97d1-373bff472661.html. Accessed 1 Jun. 2021.
"Honorary Degree for President." UWI Today, Sunday Guardian, 15 Oct. 2006, p. 5.
"Installation of UTT’s Chancellor." Sunday Guardian, 3 Nov. 2013, B16.
“The Lasting Legacy of Max Richards.” UWI Today, Feb. 2018, sta.uwi.edu/uwitoday/archive/february_2018/article4.asp. Accessed 14 Oct. 2020.
"NGO Presents Republic Day Award to ‘The People’s President’." Trinidad Guardian,
25 Sept. 2003, p. 11.
Polo, Dareece. "Former President George Maxwell Richards Dies." Loop News, 8 Jan. 2018, tt.loopnews.com/content/former-president-george-maxwell-richards-dies.
Accessed 1 Jun. 2021.
“PM’s Letter to President Richards as he Demits Office.” Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, www.news.gov.tt/content/pms-letter-president-richards-he-demits-office#.YV-O830pDIU. Accessed 2 Oct. 2020.
Rampersad, Joan. “Memories of Max Live on.” Newsday, 9 Jan. 2018, newsday.co.tt/2018/01/09/memories-of-max-live-on/. Accessed 1 Jun. 2021.
Rowley, Keith C. “Condolences on the Passing of Former President Professor George Maxwell Richards.” Office of the Prime Minister - Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, 8 Jan. 2018, www.opm.gov.tt/condolences-on-the-passing-of-former-president-professor-george-maxwell-richards/. Accessed 14 Oct. 2020.
Sookraj, Savitri. "And Now to President Max." Trinidad Guardian, 16 Mar. 2003, p. 4.
Sydney, Albert W. B. Oaths of Allegiance: A Biographical Profile of the Heads of State of the Commonwealth Caribbean. Port of Spain, Albert WB Sydney, 2009.
"10 Notable Achievements of Former President George Maxwell Richards." Loop News, 9 Jan. 2018, tt.loopnews.com/content/10-notable-achievements-professor-george-maxwell-richards. Accessed 28 Jun. 2021.
“TTOC Remembers Richards as a Passionate Supporter of Sports and Youth.” Loop News, 13 Jan. 2018, tt.loopnews.com/content/ttoc-remembers-richards-passionate-supporter-sports-and-youth. Accessed 1 Jun. 2021.
Newspaper articles can be found in the George Maxwell Richards biographical file held in the Information File Collection, Heritage Library Division, NALIS.