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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, May 8, 2001

Former Big Island judge Richard Miyamoto dead at 76

By Hugh Clark
Advertiser Big Island Bureau

HILO, Hawai'i — Richard Isami Miyamoto, 76, a former Big Island judge who served as a magistrate in American Samoa and Micronesia, died Thursday at the Queen's Medical Center after a long illness.

Miyamoto was born Nov. 25, 1924, in Pepe'ekeo and served as an interpreter for the Military Intelligence Service, Ninth Infantry Division, during World War II after being denied participation in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team because an older brother already was fighting in Italy.

After the war, he earned a law degree at Boston University in 1952 and moved to the Big Island to work as an attorney before becoming a magistrate, the title for district judges in the 1960s. Later, he ran unsuccessfully for the state Legislature as a Republican.

U.S. Sen. Hiram Fong helped him win appointment in the Nixon administration as attorney general of the U.S. Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands. He served as chief justice of the Supreme Court in American Samoa from 1976-1981 and was reassigned in 1982 to Saipan to serve as associate justice of the high court of the Micronesian territories.

"We packed for two years and stayed for 17," said his wife, Filomena, of the time the couple spent in Samoa and Micronesia.

Within a year of returning to Hilo in 1987, he was appointed corporation counsel for Hawai'i County by the late Mayor Bernard Akana.

Steve Christensen, a veteran Hilo attorney who worked as Miyamoto's assistant under Akana, described Miyamoto as "very calm, not a greatly excitable man. He was a good and decent attorney with a very distinguished career."

Visitation will begin at 4 p.m. tomorrow at Dodo Mortuary, with a funeral at 5 p.m. Inurnment will be at 11 a.m. Thursday at Hawai'i Veterans Cemetery No. 2 in Hilo. The family requests casual attire.

In addition to his wife, Miyamoto is survived by sons Philip of California and Matthieu of Oregon; daughters Charmine Wela of Maui and Teresa Spaulding of Kona; brothers Hajime and Masaru of Hilo, Rodney of Pahoa and Calvin of California; a sister, Yasue Kawasaki of Hilo; and four grandchildren.