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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, August 17, 2006

John Ushijima: a life of public service


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A core story in the modern political history of Hawai'i is the influence of the veterans of the largely Nisei 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the 100th Infantry Battalion.

These vets were in many ways the tip of the spear of the Democratic political revolution that took over state government in the middle 1950s and dominated it for decades.

A major player in that revolution was former state Sen. John Ushijima, a wartime colleague of Daniel K. Inouye who returned home to make his mark in law, business and politics.

Ushijima, who died this week at 82, served in the state Senate from 1959 through 1982, rising to become Senate president from 1974 through 1978. He later served more than seven years as a University of Hawai'i regent.

During his legislative career, Ushijima, a cigar-chomping, reticent politician of the old school, had a careful hand in many pieces of landmark legislation, including the Pre-Paid Health Care Act and sweeping laws on gender discrimination.

He came in for some criticism over the years for his strong support of development and growth, particularly on his home island of Hawai'i. Ushijima was unapologetic, arguing that growth was good for the economy and for his constituents.

John Ushijima was among those politicians who were convinced that public and elected service represented a higher calling. His mark will be long-lasting.