Lawrence Fuchs Set Pace for Books on Isle Politics

By Borreca, Richard | Honolulu Star - Advertiser, April 12, 2013 | Go to article overview

Lawrence Fuchs Set Pace for Books on Isle Politics


Borreca, Richard, Honolulu Star - Advertiser


In March, Hawaii lost one of its best biographers, Lawrence Fuchs, who died at age 86 at his home in Canton, Mass.

The obituary focused on Fuchs as the founder of the Brandeis University's American Studies Department and adviser to Presidents John Kennedy and Jimmy Carter, making only passing reference to Fuchs' 1961 book called "Hawaii Pono."

The book was a cultural and ethnic exploration of Hawaii from the arrival of American missionaries to statehood in 1959. It looked at the relationships, ethnicities and motivations of the men and women who founded modern Hawaii.

When published, "Hawaii Pono" was political dynamite in Hawaii. Even Fuchs acknowledged in a 1983 preface to a paperback edition that it was a hot topic.

"Understandably, those who resisted change, many of whom loved Hawaii deeply, were angered by an analysis that showed their action to be guided not just by sincere devotion to Hawaii but also by self-interest," Fuchs wrote.

When I first started covering politics for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Tom Coffman was the newspaper's Capitol bureau chief. His first recommendation was to buy a copy of "Hawaii Pono."

That was back in the 1970s. Covering the Legislature and City Hall when many of the characters in "Hawaii Pono" appeared in your news copy made you feel you were writing history.

Given what has happened since, are there new books we should be urging upon young reporters and those interested in Hawaii's fascinating premise?

I asked Gov. Neil Abercrombie -- who, like Fuchs, holds a doctorate in American studies -- and our congressional delegation for recommendations. All responded except for Rep. Tulsi Gabbard.

Sens. Mazie Hirono and Brian Schatz and Rep. Colleen Hanabusa all included Coffman's first book, the 1972 discussion of the 1970 race for governor of Hawaii, "Catch a Wave."

"I don't think there is any one book that captures the broad diversity of Hawaii or our political culture," Hirono wrote in an email, "but one of the first books I read when I got into Hawaii government was 'Catch a Wave' by Tom Coffman. It chronicles the political career of a great Hawaii governor, John Burns, and his legacy. …

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