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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, August 16, 2009

Bill Paty

By Dan Nakaso
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser
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Bill Paty has had a remarkable life and career:

  • Army captain who parachuted on D-Day and was captured by Germans and held as a POW.

  • Former plantation manager, CEO and president of Waialua Sugar Co.

  • Former chairman of the state Board of Land and Natural Resources.

  • Trustee for the Robinson Estate.

  • Civilian aide emeritus for the military in the Pacific among several other positions.

    But Hawai'i history may record Paty's greatest achievement as his role as chairman of the 1978 Constitutional Convention, or ConCon.

    It was the post-Watergate era and the 1978 ConCon would become known as the "people's convention" that included only three sitting and two former elected officials among the 102 delegates.

    The usual cast of pols was replaced in the steamy atmosphere of the old Downtown federal building by rising newcomers filled with ideas and ambition.

    Somehow, Paty emerged as the compromise candidate to lead the convention.

    The convention spawned a new generation of political leaders that included former Honolulu Mayor Jeremy Harris and former Gov. John Waihee. And Paty appointed A. "Frenchy" DeSoto as head of the Hawaiian Affairs Committee, which produced what would become the state Office of Hawaiian Affairs.

    Among all of the ideals floating around the convention, the Paty-led ConCon ended up passing 34 Constitutional amendments that changed the direction of the Islands, such as constitutional protections for Hawaiian cultural practices and a declaration that Hawaiian would be an official language of the Islands.

    Unions that had worried about losing gains made by the previous 1968 ConCon ended up satisfied.

    And there were lots of reasons for everyday folks to celebrate the work of the delegates, too, including the creation of a statewide water commission and protections for the ocean and for agricultural land.

    In the decades since, Paty has been honored repeatedly for his work and celebrated for his life. But political historians may look back to 1978 as Paty's proudest achievement.