Charles Hemenway

Name Charles Hemenway
Born June 12 1875
Died October 15 1947
Birth Location Manchester, Vermont

Lawyer, territorial attorney general, wartime advocate for Hawai'i's Nisei students and Japanese population. [1]

A resident of Hawai'i since 1899, Charles Reed Hemenway (1875–1947) was born in Manchester, Vermont, on June 12, 1875, the son of Lewis Hunt and Martha (Reed) Hemenway. He was a descendant of Ralph Hemenway of Yorkshire, England, who settled in Roxbury, Vermont, in the early seventeenth century. He received his education at Burr & Burton Seminary and later graduated from Yale University with an A.B. degree. From 1897 to 1899 he studied law in New York City before coming to Hawai'i as a mathematics teacher at Punahou School. In 1901, he gave up teaching to enter private law practice in Honolulu and on July 25 Hemenway and Jane Munson Colburn were married in Manchester Center, Vermont.

In 1907 Hemenway was appointed territorial attorney general and three years later he left government service to return to private law practice. He continued until 1915 when he became associated with Alexander & Baldwin in Honolulu. In 1916, Hemenway was elected vice president and assistant manager of Alexander & Baldwin and served in that capacity until 1938 when he became president of the Hawaiian Trust Co. He served as president until 1945 when he retired to become chairman of the board of directors, a position he held at the time of his death. In 1916, Hemenway was appointed to the board of trustees of Lē'ahi Home. During his career, Hemenway also served as a director of the Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co., Ltd., Maui Agricultural Co., Ltd., McBryde Sugar Co., Kahuku Plantation Co., Hawaiian Trust Co., Ltd., Bank of Hawaii Ltd., Inter-Island Steam Navigation Co., Hawaiian Electric Co., and the Hawaii Consolidated Railway Co.

Hemenway's long association with the University of Hawai'i started in 1907 when the governor appointed Hemenway, Arthur G. Smith, and Arthur Dean, all members of the University Club of Honolulu, to draft the Act of Establishment which founded the College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts. When the College was enlarged in 1920 by the addition of the College of Arts and Sciences, it became a university. From 1910 through 1940, Hemenway served on the Board of Regents and from 1920 until his resignation was chairman. While associated with the university, Hemenway took an active interest in the educational and personal welfare of many of the young men who later became members of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and 100th Infantry Battalion . Hemenway's support of Japanese Americans during World War II was noted in an editorial eulogy in the Hawaii Herald :

Hemenway wasn't afraid to "stick his neck out." He knew, out of his long, extensive, and intimate acquaintance with "his boys" at the University, that these boys were loyal Americans as could be found anywhere in the nation. And he did not hesitate to say so. His influential position in the community, his wide and varied contacts, his unquestioned integrity, his logical reasoning, and his cool-headed conviction carried weight in critical quarters. [2]

As a result of his support of the Japanese community, he received honorary membership in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and in the Club 100 of the 100th Infantry Battalion. He was according an honorary LL.D. degree by the University of Hawai'i following his retirement from the Board of Regents and the social hall and activity building was named after him.

Hemenway died at Queen's Hospital, two days after undergoing a major operation. He had been seriously ill for the past three months. Upon hearing of his death, the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa had flags flying at half-mast in tribute to a man who according to university President Greg Sinclair "whose constant interest throughout the years, whose indefatigable effort, contributed greatly to the development of a small unknown college into an American university of recognized prestige." [3]

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

For More Information

"Charles R. Hemenway." Hawaii Herald , October 17, 1947, 2.

"C. Hemenway, Trust Co. Head, Dies at Queen's." Honolulu Advertiser , October 16, 1947, 6.

"C.R. Hemenway, Civil Leader, Educator, Dies." Honolulu Star-Bulletin , October 15, 1947, 1.

Japanese Eyes, American Heart: Personal Reflections of Hawaii's World War II Nisei Soldiers . Honolulu: Tendai Educational Foundation: Distributed by University of Hawaii Press, 1998.

Tsukiyama, Ted. Charles Reed Hemenway, 1875-1947 . [Honolulu: Hemenway Scholarship Committee, 1995].


  1. Research for this article was supported by a grant from the Hawai‘i Council for the Humanities .
  2. "Charles R. Hemenway," Hawaii Herald , October 17, 1947, 2.
  3. "C. Hemenway, Trust Co. Head, Dies at Queen's," Honolulu Advertiser , October 16, 1947, 6.

Last updated July 14, 2020, 7:21 p.m..