E.R. Braithwaite, a Guyana-born novelist, writer, teacher and diplomat who wrote the international bestseller To Sir, With Love, has died. His companion, Ginette Ast, told the Associated Press that Braithwaite died Monday at a hospital in Maryland. He was 104.
Born in Georgetown, Guyana, Braithwaite attended Queen’s College, Guyana and the City College of New York. During World War II he joined the Royal Air Force as a pilot and afterward attended the University of Cambridge, earning a bachelor’s degree and doctorate in physics. Frustrated he could not find work in the field despite his qualifications and experience because of racism, he reluctantly took a job as a schoolteacher in London’s East End.
It was that experience that inspired his first book in 1959, the autobiographical To Sir, With Love. In 1967, the novel was made into a film starring Sidney Poitier as Braithwaite (renamed Thackeray) and Lulu, and the film’s title song became a No. 1 hit that year. The setting for the film was changed from postwar London to the “swinging ’60s.” In 1996, Poitier reprised his role in the TV movie To Sir, With Love II. A stage production of the original story toured in 2013.
His other books included the novel Paid Servant, based on his time as a social worker, and Honorary White, a report of his visit to South Africa in the 1970s, as well as the autobiographical Reluctant Neighbors.
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