In April 1962, Ebony Magazine published a lead feature on the January 1962 wedding of Tom Mboya and Pamela Odede.
“Africa’s No. 1 Bachelor Takes a Bride”, the feature (which is available on Google Books) tells the story of a young, ambitious, well-connected rising star at one of the moments that defined his life. The guest list featured the high and the mighty in both the colonial and the would-be independence government.?
From Uganda, the flamboyant King Freddie (Mutesa II, the 35th Kabaka of Buganda and first President of Uganda) caused a stir with his suave entry. Tanganyika’s Julius Nyerere was unable to attend but cabled in his congratulations.
Jomo Kenyatta, recently released from detention, and Jaramogi were also in attendance. The politics and disagreements between them would define the independence government, and feature in successive ones. In the middle, for the first decade, would be Tom Mboya.
Mboya’s bestman was the ever-flamboyant Charles Njonjo, then just crown counsel. He later became Kenya’s first Attorney General, seeing it through it’s first transition in 1978. Like Mboya, Njonjo’s downfall was his ambition although for him, the punishment was a public embarrasment, not a bullet.
The other groomsmen were Omolo Agar and Peter Otieno.
The wedding took place at St. Peter’s Claver Church. Mboya was already a popular politician, aged only 32 at the time. He had intricate links and contacts around the globe.?
Pamela is walked into the church by her father, Walter Odede. Odede was a politician closely affiliated with Mboya and Kenyatta. Pamela was one of the beneficiaries of the airlift of Kenyan students to American universities, organised by Tom and supported by JFK and William Scheinman.
The wedding was conducted by Archbishop JJ McCarthy. Among the congratulatory messages the newlyweds received that day was an apostolic blessing from Pope John XXIII and a message from the Aga Khan.
The reception was held at Charter Hall and hosted more than 2, 000 people. The bride and groom are visible on the right (below the white arrow).
The newlyweds cut the multi-tiered wedding cake. On the right, Bruce McKenzie gives a speech in honor of the newlyweds. Bruce McKenzie died in May 1978 in what is widely believed to have been Ugandan President’s Idi Amin’s retaliation for McKenzie’s role in the Entebbe Raid.
Derek Erskin performs a rather untalented but hilarious rendition of?Standing on the Corner, watching the girls go by.?The song was written by Frank Loesser in 1956. The man on the right is the Governor Sir Patrick Renison.
Then the gifting ceremony…
Mboya and his wife also took a detour to the trade unionist’s headquarters.
The after party was held at Njonjo’s home.
The couple then made for Tel Aviv on their 10-day honeymoon. At the end of the honeymoon, Mboya headed to London, for the 2nd Lancaster Conference. Midway through the conference, he made a transatlantic dash to Chicago to address the Annual Brotherhood Banquet [Link] before heading back to London.
All images from Ebony Magazine, April 1962. [Link]