Samuel Wilder King


Name Samuel Wilder King
Born December 17 1886
Died March 26 1959
Birth Location Honolulu

Wartime delegate to Congress who was an outspoken critic of martial law. Samuel Wilder King (1886–1959), a World War I and World War II veteran and a postwar territorial governor of Hawai'i, supported statehood for Hawai'i.

Samuel Wilder King was born in Honolulu on December 17, 1886, and was educated at St. Louis College, the old Fort Street School, and Honolulu High School, now McKinley High School. He was the son of Captain James A. King, a pioneer in the inter-island shipping industry who arrived in Hawai'i in the 1800s and later became minister of the interior in the Republic of Hawai'i. King's mother was Charlotte Holmes Davis King, a descendant of a distinguished part-Hawaiian family founded by her great-grandfather Oliver Holmes, who came to Hawai'i from Plymouth, Massachusetts, and settled on O'ahu in 1793. Holmes married Mahi, a daughter of a high chief of O'ahu who became governor of the island under Kamehameha I. King married Pauline Evans of Honolulu on March 18, 1912, and had three sons and two daughters.

King was one of the early appointees to the U.S. Naval Academy, nominated by Prince Jonah Kūhiō Kalaniana'ole, and went on to have a long and distinguished career in the navy, traveling throughout Asia and the Pacific and serving during World War I. He resigned his navy commission on December 31, 1924, and remained in the naval reserve until 1928 with the rank of lieutenant commander. King then entered the real estate business in Hawai'i and devoted his time to public and civic business. After serving two years on the Board of Supervisors of Honolulu, in 1934 he was elected delegate to the United States Congress and was an outspoken critic of martial law, defending Japanese Americans in Hawai'i against charges of disloyalty.[1] However, following the entry of the United States into World War II, King decided to serve in the navy at the age of fifty-six with the rank of lieutenant commander. He served in the central Pacific area from January 4, 1943, to February 21, 1946, and in recognition of his contributions, King was awarded the Legion of Merit and promoted to captain, U.S. Naval Reserve.

In addition to his decorated military service, King also had a distinguished political career in the Islands. Beginning as a precinct club worker, King was a lifelong member of the Republican Party and served the territory in a variety of posts before he was appointed to fill a vacancy on the Board of Supervisors of the City and County of Honolulu from 1932 to 1934. King served as a delegate to the Republican National Conventions in 1936, 1940, 1948, and 1952 and was a member of the Governor's Emergency Housing Committee in 1946. The following year, he was a member of the Hawaii Statehood Commission, serving as chairman from 1949 to 1953. In 1950, King was president of the constitutional convention and later President Eisenhower appointed him governor of Hawai'i. In that capacity, King served the people of Hawai'i from February 28, 1953, until his resignation on July 31, 1957.

After leaving the governorship, King resumed his real estate business and was appointed a trustee of the Bernice P. Bishop estate. But he returned active politics to run as a Republican representative from windward O'ahu to become the first governor of the state of Hawai'i. King unexpectedly passed away during his campaign at the age of seventy-two and was buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl.

Authored by Kelli Y. Nakamura, University of Hawai'i

For More Information

"King Led in Political, Military, Civic Fields." Honolulu Star-Bulletin, March 25, 1959, 1-A.

"King, Samuel Wilder." Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=K000214.

Ohira, Rod. "King Refused '2nd-Class' Citizenship for Hawaii." Honolulu Star-Bulletin, September 27, 1999, http://archives.starbulletin.com/1999/09/27/news/story9.html#jump.

"Samuel Wilder King (R) 1935–1942." University of Hawai'i at Mãnoa LIbrary, http://guides.library.manoa.hawaii.edu/content.php?pid=402866&sid=3298502.

"Samuel Wilder King Dies in 72nd Year." Honolulu Star-Bulletin, March 25, 1959, 1.

Scheiber, Harry N. and Jane L. Scheiber, "Bayonets in Paradise: A Half-Century Retrospect on Martial Law in Hawai'i, 1941-1946," University of Hawai'i Law Review 19 (1997): 477-648.

Footnotes

  1. Harry N. Scheiber and Jane L. Scheiber, "Bayonets in Paradise: A Half-Century Retrospect on Martial Law in Hawai'i, 1941-1946," University of Hawai'i Law Review 19 (1997), 528.