Eric Gairy was born in Grenada in 1922. A schoolteacher and trade union leader he formed the left of centre political party, the Grenada United Labour Party (GULP) in 1950.
Gairy soon became an important political figure in Grenada and held the posts of Chief Minister in the Federation of the West Indies (1957-1962) and became prime minister of Grenada in 1967. During this period, the main opposition to the GULP came from the Grenada National Party (GNP).
In 1969 Maurice Bishop returned to Grenada after studying law in England. Bishop now became Gairy's main rival. Bishop helped form the Movement for Assemblies of the People (MAP) and the Movement for the Advance of Community (MACE). Later these organizations merged with Joint Endeavor for Welfare, Education and Liberation (JEWEL) to establish the New Jewel Movement (NJM).
In 1970 Gairy formed a private army called the Mongoose Gang. On 18th November, 1973, Maurice Bishop and two other members of the NJM were badly beaten by this gang. Bishop suffered a broken jaw in the attack and was hospitalized for several weeks.
After his election victory in 1972 Gairy argued that Grenada should be granted its independence from Britain. In May 1973 Gairy visited London where he discussed this issue with Edward Heath and it was agreed that Grenada would become independent in February, 1974.
Some people in Grenada were worried by this decision. It was feared that Gairy would install himself as a dictator after independence. A Committee of 22 was established by the trade unions, civic organizations and the church. On 1st January 1974 the group called a national strike.
On 21st January 1974 the Committee of 22 held a protest march. During the demonstration the marchers were attacked by the police. Several people were injured and Rupert Bishop, the father of Maurice Bishop, the leader of the New Jewel Movement, was killed.
Eric Gairy and his Grenada United Labour Party won the elections held on 7th November, 1976. However, opposition leaders complained that all election officials were members of GULP and that they had tampered with the voting papers.
In 1977 Gairy began receiving advice from General Augusto Pinochet of Chile on how to deal with civil unrest. His police and military also received "counter insurgency" training from the Pinochet regime. The New Jewel Movement retaliated by developing links with Fidel Castro and his Marxist government in Cuba.
Gairy's state of mind also raised concerns. In October 1977 Gairy addressed the General Assembly of the United Nations. During his speech he urged the UN to establish an Agency for Psychic Research into Unidentified Flying Objects and the Bermuda Triangle. He also called for 1978 to be established as "The Year of the UFO".
In 1978 Gairy's police began arresting members of the opposition. Political leaders went into hiding and on 13th March 1979, Maurice Bishop of the New Jewel Movement led an overthrow of the government.