Jean Sadako King

Name Jean Sadako King
Born December 6 1925
Died November 24 2013
Birth Location Honolulu
Generational Identifier


Lieutenant governor of Hawai'i, 1979–83. Jean Sadako McKillop was born on December 6, 1925, the daughter of William Donald McKillop, the Canadian born postmaster of Captain Cook, a small town on the Big Island of Hawai'i, and Chiyo Murakami, the Nisei daughter of a coffee farming family in Kona. She and her brother were raised in Honolulu, and she attended high school during the wartime martial law regime, graduating from Sacred Hearts Academy, where she was valedictorian and editor of the yearbook. She graduated from the University of Hawaii in 1948 with a degree in English. She went on to a master's degree from New York University in history. Later, she returned for an M.F.A. degree in theater arts and drama from the University of Hawaii in 1968.

Her first foray into politics was as a candidate of for the Hawai'i Constitutional Convention of 1950. Years later, she began working as an aide to Tadao Beppu, who was the speaker of the house in the Hawaii Legislature from 1968–74 and worked for other legislators as well. She ran for the legislature as a Democrat in 1972 and won election, representing the 14th district (Ala Moana and Kaka'ako). After one term, she won election to the state senate in 1974. In 1978, she ran successfully for lieutenant governor, becoming the first Asian American to be elected a lieutenant governor of a state. King was not part of old "Burns coalition" (the group within Hawai'i's Democratic Party that coalesced around former Governor John Burns ) and clashed often with Governor George Ariyoshi . (In Hawai'i, the lieutenant governor is not elected as part of a slate with the governor.) In 1982, she challenged Ariyoshi in the Democratic gubernatorial primary, but was defeated. She subsequently retired from electoral politics, though she remained active in the local community.

Authored by Brian Niiya , Densho

For More Information

Hayashi, Brandon Jiro. "Jean Sadako McKillop King: A Colorblind Upbringing." The Hawai'i Herald , May 24, 2002, A-9–10.

Saiki, Patsy Sumie. Japanese Women in Hawaii: The First 100 Years . Honolulu: Kisaku, Inc., 1985.

Suzuki, Genevieve A. "Lieutenant Governor Jean King: Every Gracious, Still Committed." The Hawai'i Herald , May 24, 2002, A-8, 10.

Last updated Oct. 5, 2015, 5:36 p.m..