Burleigh Holder Passes

The late M. Burleigh Holder

Former Minister of National Security and of National Defense, Author

Mr. M. Burleigh Holder, former Minister of National Security and of National Defense during the Tolbert administration, died yesterday, August 29, in Plymouth, Minnesota, United States of America, following a protracted illness.

He was 89.

Burleigh was born in the Township of Crozierville, Montserrado County, on August 3, 1929, to the union of Mr. Sammy Holder and his wife, Mrs. Kate Urey Holder. Mrs. Holder hailed from the high yellow Urey family of the City of Careysburg, a few miles from Crozierville. All of the Holder children carried her complexion, very light.

Burleigh obtained his early education at the Henry’s School near White Plains, about 10 miles from Crozierville, where he graduated from the eighth grade, head of his class. He later attended high school in Monrovia.

A graduate of the University of Liberia, where he was awarded the Bachelor of Arts degree, Mr. Holder got a scholarship to study in London, where he earned the LLB degree in Law.

Shortly after he returned home with his Bachelor of Law (LLB) degree, he was employed with the State Department (now Ministry of Foreign Affairs), where he rose to the position of Assistant Secretary of State. He also spent some time teaching at the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law.

Upon the death of President William V.S. Tubman in July, 1971, Vice President William R. Tolbert acceded to the presidency. Shortly thereafter, Burleigh went to work in the Executive Mansion where he further rose in government. First he was appointed Minister of National Security.

Meanwhile, he married President Tolbert’s daughter, Dr. Wilhelmina Tolbert (MD). Burliegh was later appointed Defense Minister. It was this position that he held when the 1980 coup d’état occurred, killing President Tolbert and his topmost officials and causing Mr. Holder to spend over a year in jail as a political prisoner.

One of Mr. Holder’s outstanding accomplishments was his delivery of the main Address at the 100th Anniversary of the founding of the Township of Crozierville in 1965.

It was in 1864 that President Daniel B. Warner issued a Proclamation inviting people from the West Indies, the area where Granada, Jamaica, Trinidad, Barbados and Guyana are found, to migrate to Liberia. Many Barbadians, 365 in all, accepted the invitation. On their arrival, the Liberian government gave them an uninhabited parcel of land in rural Montserrado County to settle in. The immigrants named it Crozierville, in honor of Mr. Samuel Crozer, a wealthy man who provided the money to enable them to make the voyage on the brig (sailing vessel) named Cora.

The late M. Burleigh Holder

But not all of these immigrants settled in Crozierville. A few families, including the Barclays, Grimes and Wiles, settled in Monrovia. And it was they who became the lawyers and politicians. Two of them, Arthur Barclay and Edwin J. Barclay, became President of Liberia.

Another also became outstanding—Louis Arthur Grimes, who served as Attorney General, Secretary of State and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Liberia. The University of Liberia School of Law is named for him. One of his sons also became Secretary of State, J. Rudolph Grimes; and his daughter became president of the University of Liberia, the first African woman to head a university.

The organization that staged the 100dth Anniversary of the founding of Crozierville was the Civic League of Crozierville, headed by the Secretary of Planning and Economic Affairs, J. Milton Weeks. It was his younger brother, Rocheforte L. Weeks, that President Tubman, in 1959, picked to become the first Liberian president of the University of Liberia. Rocheforte was only 35, but went on to serve as UL president for 13 years, the longest tenure of anyone heading that institution.

Most of the Barbadians who opted for Crozierville became farmers, teachers and men of the cloth—reverends. And many of them also became writers, the most notable of them being Albert Porte, the legendary agitator with the pen and pamphleteer.

The League sent Burleigh to the United States a year before to do research on the history of Crozierville at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

At the celebration of the Township’s founding on May 10, 1965, Burleigh Holder delivered his Address entitled “A History of Crozierville.” It included the names, ages and professions of all of the 365 men, women and children that made the voyage from Barbados, the West Indies, to Liberia.

Burleigh, during the war, joined his family in the United States. He reported in a book, The Hand of God, which he wrote while in America, that he suffered from strokes that seriously impaired his health. In recent years he returned home in a wheel chair.

On Wednesday, August 29, the good Lord ended Burleigh’s suffering by extending to him the eternal summons.

Funeral arrangements will be announced later.


  1. Sorry for his passing, but the author of this piece is a fool. Who the hell cares about “high yellow” and light complexion. This is the colorism that shows that some of our people have no idea how to write or are obsessed with color. The man died, so write the obituary and stop putting in nonessentials.

    • I totally agree with your assertion. Probably, this writer is obsess with like skin Americo Liberians and feels inferior to them.

      • Has to be Mr. Best. I read his book on the evolution of Liberia’s democracy and he dedicated an entire page to talking about skin hue. As if that matters. We all have the same color blood running through our veins. As the saying goes, “in front of the white man, we are all black.”

    • That was my uncle and the high yellow woman the author was talking about was my grandma and she would have cussed hum out for saying that…

  2. Amidst the departure of a great State-man, there is a history being brought forth. We need these histories on hard or soft back books for our posterity to know the inhabitants of Liberia from the OPEN-DOOR Policy which started before President Tubman


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