The national icon, who played a number of sports in track and field, basketball, softball, volleyball, cricket and rugby and made an invaluable contribution as an coach, official and administrator, left behind two girls and five boys, who have all tried to carry on his legacy. He was the first Bahamian recruiter for a major institute – St Augustine’s College in Raleigh, North Carolina, and the first Bahamian to become an international certified volleyball referee.
In a fitting tribute from one of his close friends and rivals, Martin Lundy wrote the following:
“Tom Grant internalised and then acted upon the concept that the possibilities of man is as an asymptotic capable of approaching the line of perfection but never ever arriving there. For him the journey was what mattered most as he used his wings to fly from truculence in Bain Town’s Three Peas Corner, gliding to the cumulus of excellence and then soaring beyond to assume his place among the flashing bulbs which light up the heavens.
While his basketball feats earned him the nickname “The Bird”, his feet yet remained squarely planted on the ground for his fifty-eight (58) years as champion sprinter and the coach of champion sprinters, as the country’s first internationally certified volleyball official and as the head coach of the national team that won this country’s first game in international volleyball; or a valuable member of the 4 X 100 Relay Team that earned this country its first international track and field Medal (1957), or as Coach Steve “Bulla” Pinder’s flamboyant basketball scoring machine with the championship Pinder’s Barber Shop Club (1962 – 1965).”
#Grant, according to Lundy, was a single-parent home, causing his early scholastic matriculation to support his household. Fortunately, he was imbued with tremendous charisma and athletic ability, enabling him to catch the eye of legendary founder of the St Bernard’s Sporting Club, the late Father Marcian Peters who gave Tom his first pair of track shoes.
“Thereafter he excelled, participating in an epic sprinting duel with the great Tommy Robinson, George Collie and Lester “Spider” Marshall, therefrom earning “Berutti” as a nickname after an Italian Olympic champion sprinter,” Lundy said. “He was a member of the historic relay team that won the first international medal in track and field for The Bahamas in Jamaica at the West Indian Games (1957).”
Grant excelled as a basketball player with Pinder’s Barber Shop which dominated the Priory Recreational League during the early 1960s.
“His 47 points constituted a record for most points scored in a single game. Along with his team-mates Bruce LaFleur, Dewitt Hanna, Dewitt Johnson, Vincent and Tony Gardiner, they constituted the country’s first championship team to use the fast break as its primary offensive weapon,” Lundy said.
“He was to be named to several national teams representing The Bahamas (1962 – 1966. Tom also excelled in rugby, his speed a key advantage for first his Buccaneers and later the Baillou Rugby Clubs.” After working with the Ministry of Health for almost 15 years,
Grant parlayed his experience into qualifying for admission to Miami Dade Junior College in Florida. There, he was also named head coach of the women’s volleyball programme.
“This was when he pioneered the procurement of athletic scholarships for underprivileged Bahamian student-athletes, chief among which was a former deputy prime minister, herself a prot�g� of Grant in obtaining college scholarships for underprivileged Bahamians,” Lundy said. “This trend he continued when he graduated to coach at the college level.”
After returning to the Bahamas, Grant went on to teach in the public school system where he revolutionised volleyball, creating dynasties at whatever school he taught, first at CC Sweeting, then at Government High School, HO Nash and finally at AF Adderley School.
“In that era, as president of the Government Schools Sports Association (1984 – 1987), he suffered heavily for campaigning against the Teachers Strike which eventually crippled the inter school sports programme in New Providence and caused the creation of a separate inter school sports association for private schools,” Lundy said.
“Tom Berutti The Bird Grant succeeded in doing his best to become the best that he could be, approaching that line of perfection in all that he did, not only for himself but also for so many who had no hope before he entered their pedestrian existence, in the end making his country that much more progressive.”
On October 21, 2006, Grant was honoured by the Government of the Bahamas. At the time, Prime Minister Perry Christie released the following proclamation:
WHEREAS, social scientists have confirmed that a country’s inclination to honour what it has produced is an indication of the level of development of that country and a measure of the sustainability of its culture; AND WHEREAS, his performances as athlete, coach, referee and physical education teacher have been a source of inspiration and motivation to generations of Bahamian youth for an extended period in excess of 50 years, at the same time bringing acclaim to these islands of his birth;
AND WHEREAS, he has dramatically entered the name of The Bahamas in the historical records of local track and field by participating on the 400 metres relay team which claimed the very first medal for The Bahamas in a major international competition; AND WHEREAS, he has demonstrated supreme perseverance and irrepressible courage in retaining within his command, a supremacy of effort which permitted him to become a significant member of the first national basketball team to represent The Bahamas in international Competition;
AND WHEREAS, he succeeded in exhibiting irresistible charm and amazing poise throughout the challenging rigors of becoming the first Bahamian to become certified by the International Volleyball Federation as an internationally licensed volleyball referee;
AND WHEREAS, he has gracefully enhanced the image of The Bahamas among universities and colleges in the United States by undergoing the most demanding levels of training and undertaking the severest of personal sacrifice to become the first Bahamian to be appointed Director of Athletics at an American University;
NOW THEREFORE, as a mark of eternal gratitude and awesome respect and in the name of the proud people of this sovereign nation, I, Perry G Christie, MP, Rt Honourable Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, do hereby declare Saturday, October 21st, 2006 to be Thomas “The Bird” Grant Day.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto, set my hand and seal, this 19th day of October, 2006.
Christie later participated in a ceremony that was held to name the park in Yellow Elder, the Tom ‘the Bird’ Grant Park.
Additionally, tributes for Grant also came in from the following:
New Providence Volleyball Association
“The executives and members of the New Providence Volleyball Association extend condolences to the family of the late Tom “The Bird” Grant. Mr Grant has excelled in the sport of volleyball as a player, administrator and official and has definitely left an indelible mark and paved the way for many of us that hold the sport dear to our heart,” the executives wrote. “May his soul rest in peace.”
“My condolences to his family as well during this time of bereavement,” she wrote. “Tom’s contributions to the world of Bahamian sport will forever be imprinted in our Bahamian sports history. May his soul rest in peace.”
“We enjoyed having a chance to share and learn from his expertise as well as assisting him with the promotion of all of the events that he participated in, either as an athlete, coach or administrator. There was never an event that he was involved in or even when he wasn’t involved, but was able to get the scores, that he didn’t try to keep the media abreast of what was going on. He was a gem, a living legend, a man for all seasons. He was in a class of his own. He will be solely missed, especially from the sporting media, whom he had a close affinity with.”
May his soul rest in peace.