He burst onto the scene in 1979, first in May after a failed coup, but then took over the administration of the country on June 4, 1979, with the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC)The then flight lieutenant handed over power to a civilian administration immediately afterwards, allowing for elections exactly two weeks after that coup d’etat.
The elections went into a second round on July 9, 1979, with Dr Hilla Limann beating Victor Owusu to become the President of the Third Republic.
But Flt. Lt Jerry John Rawlings returned on December 31, 1981, with the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) in another coup to oust Dr Limann and ruled the country until 1992, when he allowed for elections to usher in the Fourth Republic.
He won the elections with the newly formed National Democratic Congress (NDC) and ruled Ghana as the first President of the Fourth Republic.
He won another election in 1996 to serve his second and last term as a democratically elected president.
He handed over power on January 7, 2001, to John Agyekum Kufuor in what was touted as the first major transition from a democratically elected government to another democratically elected government for Ghana.
Rawlings was born on June 22, 1947, in Ghana’s capital Accra to Victoria Agbotui, who was buried just last month after passing away in September, and James Ramsey John, a chemist from Castle Douglas in Kirkcudbrightshire, Scotland.
Rawlings attended Achimota School and a military academy at Teshie. It was at Achimota that he met his wife, Nana Konadu Agyemang.
Rawlings finished his secondary education at Achimota College in 1967.
He joined the Ghana Air Force shortly afterwards; on his application, the military switched his surname John and his middle name Rawlings.
In March 1968, he was posted to Takoradi, in Ghana’s Western Region, to continue his studies.
He graduated in January 1969 and was commissioned as a Pilot Officer, winning the coveted “Speed Bird Trophy” as the best cadet in flying the Su-7 ground attack supersonic jet aircraft as he was skilled in aerobatics.
He earned the rank of Flight Lieutenant and in April 1978.
During his service with the Ghana Air Force, Rawlings perceived deterioration in discipline and morale due to corruption in the Supreme Military Council (SMC).
As promotion brought him into contact with the privileged classes and their social values, his view of the injustices in society hardened.
He was thus regarded with some unease by the SMC. After the 1979 coup, he involved himself with the student community of the University of Ghana, where he developed a more leftist ideology through reading and discussion of social and political ideas.
The students nicknamed him ‘Junior Jesus’ coined from his initials JJ.
On Thursday, November 12, 2020, news broke that Mr Rawlings has kicked the bucket, having been admitted at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital’s Cardiothoracic Centre which was built under his administration.
He was survived by three daughters – current member of Ghana’s legislature Zanetor Rawlings, Yaa Asantewaa Rawlings and Amina Rawlings – and a son, Kimathi Rawlings.