William S. Richardson

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William Shaw Richardson
William S. Richardson in 2009.jpg
Chief Clerk for the Territorial Senate of Hawaii
In office
Chairman, Democratic Party of Hawaii
In office
Delegate to the Democratic National Convention from Hawaii
In office
1956, 1960
President, Hawaii State Bar Association
In office
2nd Lieutenant Governor of Hawaii
In office
December 2, 1962 – December 2, 1966
Governor John A. Burns
Preceded by James Kealoha
Succeeded by Thomas Gill
16th Chief Justice of the Hawaii Supreme Court
In office
Preceded by Wilfred Chomatsu Tsukiyama
Succeeded by Ronald Moon
Trustee, Kamehameha Schools
In office
Serving with Matsuo Takabuki, Myron B. Thompson, Henry H. Peters, and Oswald K. Stender
Preceded by Hung Wo Ching
Succeeded by Richard S. H. Wong
Personal details
Born (1919-12-22)December 22, 1919
Honolulu, Hawaii
Died June 21, 2010(2010-06-21) (aged 90)
Honolulu, Hawaii
Citizenship U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Amy Corinne Ching
Children William, Barbara, and Corinne
Residence Honolulu, HI, USA
Alma mater University of Hawaii at Mānoa and University of Cincinnati College of Law
Profession Judge, Politician
Military service
Service/branch U.S. Army
Years of service 1942-1946
Rank Captain
Unit 1st Filipino Infantry Regiment
Judge Advocate General Corps
Awards Infantry Officer Candidate School Hall of Fame

William Shaw Richardson (December 22, 1919 – June 21, 2010) was an American attorney, political figure, and chief justice of the Hawaii State Supreme Court from 1966 to 1982.[1] Prior to his service as the top jurist in Hawaii, Richardson was lieutenant governor under John A. Burns. Previous to that tenure from 1956 to 1962 he was chairman of the Democratic Party of Hawaii.

Early years[edit]

Richardson was born in Honolulu and was the son of Amy and Wilfred Kelelani Richardson. He was of Chinese, Native Hawaiian, and Euro-American ancestry.[2][3] He referred to himself as "just a local boy from Hawaii." He was a graduate of Roosevelt High School, University of Hawaii at Manoa, and University of Cincinnati College of Law. Richardson served in World War II with the 1st Filipino Infantry Regiment as a platoon leader with a rank of Captain in the U.S. Army.[2] After returning to Hawaii, he continued his military service in the Judge Advocate General Corps.[4]

Political career[edit]


Richardson was the Chief Clerk for the Senate of the Territory of Hawaii during the 1955 and 1957 terms. He chaired the Democratic Party of Hawaii from 1956 until 1962 and oversaw its transition from a territorial to a state party. Richardson attended the 1956 and 1960 Democratic National Conventions as a delegate representing Hawaii. In 1962, he successfully ran for Lieutenant Governor of Hawaii as a Democrat. At the end of serving a single term, Governor John A. Burns nominated Richardson as the 16th Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Hawaii. The Senate confirmed him, and Richardson served as the Chief Justice from the end of 1966 until 1982.[5]


William S. Richardson's tenure as chief justice of the Supreme Court of Hawaii was marked by landmark decisions that recognized the precedent of the state's unique cultural and legal history; specifically the public's interests in the environment, and the rights of the indigenous Hawaiian people. Under Richardson, the court held that the public's interest in the natural environment may limit or prohibit commercial development of sensitive areas, particularly coastlines and beaches; that the public has right to access Hawaii's beaches, and that land created by lava floes belonged to the state, not to nearby property owners. Richardson declared, "The western concept of exclusivity is not universally applicable in Hawaii." When two sugar plantations each sought the right to a water source, Richardson cited precedent from the court of the Kingdom of Hawai'i, and declared that the water belonged to neither of them, but to the state. The Richardson court recognized previously ignored claims of the indigenous Hawaiian people.

Kamehameha Schools Bishop Estate[edit]

After retiring from the Chief Justice position, the Hawaii State Supreme Court appointed Richardson as a trustee of the Kamehameha Schools Bishop Estate, a position he held from 1983 until 1992.[6]


Before his retirement from the bar, Richardson was memorialized with the naming of the state's only law school in his honor. The William S. Richardson School of Law was his crowning achievement, as he fought for its establishment for decades. Richardson, who is fondly referred to as "CJ" (for Chief Justice), was still involved with the development of the law school and regularly attended school functions up until his death in June 2010.


  1. ^ "About William S. Richardson". Honolulu, HI, USA: William S. Richardson School of Law. Retrieved October 20, 2012. 
  2. ^ a b Hevesi, Dennis (June 28, 2010) [June 25, 2010]. "William S. Richardson, Ex-Chief Justice in Hawaii, Is Dead at 90 - Obituary". The New York Times (New York: NYTC). p. B8. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved October 20, 2012. 
  3. ^ MacKenzie, Melody Kapilialoha. "Director's Column: Honoring Chief Justice William S. Richardson". Ka Heʻe. Retrieved May 13, 2007. 
  4. ^ Michael Tsai (June 22, 2010). "Justice 'gave life to Hawaiian law'". Honolulu Star Advertiser. Retrieved September 4, 2011. 
  5. ^ "Biography - William S. Richardson, An Annotated Bibliography". University of Hawaii School of Law Research Guides at William S. Richardson School of Law. Honolulu, HI, USA: William S. Richardson School of Law. Retrieved October 20, 2012. 
  6. ^ "Historical List of Trustees - Bernice P. Bishop Estate". Honolulu, HI, USA: Kamehameha Schools. July 26, 2011. Retrieved October 20, 2012. 

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
James Kealoha
Lieutenant Governor of Hawaii
Succeeded by
Thomas Gill