Founding of the first Hawaiian Civic Club

Prince Jonah Kūhiō Kalanianaʻole Piʻikoi

Prince Kūhiō was a key figure in the founding of the first Hawaiian Civic Club: the “Hawaiian Civic Club of Honolulu” (HCCH). The following account was given by Mrs. Parker (Sis) Widemann, HCCH president in 1963, and niece of Judge Alexander G.M. Robertson, legal advisor at the first meeting of the Civic Club:

“Jonah Kūhiō Kalanianaʻole, while delegate in Congress from Hawaiʻi, made a trip back home in early 1917 and one day, as he stood at the corner of Fort and King Streets watching people walk by – he with his hands in his pockets – he was mehameha (sad) – for he realized not only did he not know them as they passed by, but also, they did not know him. He wondered where they were going, what was going on in their minds, what they did, where they lived. Some looked happy. Many seemed to care not. Some appeared sad, too. Kūhiō knew that Honolulu was growing, that Hawaiʻi was growing. He wondered, were they thinking about it, too, as he was? Were they aware of how Hawaiʻi could grow and they, with her? He felt, as he watched them pass by, that they really didn’t know, or perhaps they didn’t want to know.

Kūhiō’s concern was deep seated. He wanted Hawaiians to be educated. He wanted them to elevate each other. He wanted to instill in and promote the economic, intellectual, social status, and well-being of Hawaiians in his community and he wanted sincerely to see Hawaiʻi’s culture to be forever preserved, not only for the Hawaiian but for all Hawaiʻi. With this trend of thought, he called together a group, seven in all, of his very close friends.

They met at his home, Pua Leilani, in Waikīkī. There, these gentlemen met: three Republicans (John C. Lane, William Legros, and Alexander G.M. Robertson, the lawyer), three Democrats (William H. Heen, Noah Aluli, and Jesse Uluihi), and Kūhiō (who himself was a Republican). Judge Robertson sat as the attorney. The Prince told them of his hopes to find a way to remind the Hawaiian of his inherent civic pride, the Hawaiians inborn concern for good government. He told them how he felt that morning standing at Fort and King Streets and that before he returned to Washington D.C., he wanted, most of all to commence the forming of the Hawaiian people into a group which would dedicate themselves to the education of the Hawaiian — the young and the old — all of them — to help elevate and promote their social, economic, civic and intellectual status, all while they would promote the principles of good government as they themselves became outstanding citizens and leaders in their communities so that they could and would take an active part and place in the civic progress of Hawaiʻi and its people. He felt it was the responsibility of each Hawaiian to bring to realization of these aims.

And so, with the legal mind of Judge Robertson coupled with Mr. Heen’s expertise, Kūhiō requested and they complied with the preparation of and submittal to him Articles of Incorporation of the Hawaiian Civic Club. This document was approved and signed by six of the seven original gentlemen – Robertson retained his position as LOIO. This instrument reflected without an ounce of doubt the deep respect each had for the other and their own partisan political belief, likewise for each one’s religious beliefs. Hence the Hawaiian Civic Club, as such, was never to involve itself in partisan politics nor would it ever involve itself in sectarian religious differences.

In the late twenties, when a Hawaiian Civic Club was started in Hauʻula and then in Lahaina, it was agreed that the original Hawaiian Civic Club, started in early December of 1917*, should be known as the Hawaiian Civic Club of Honolulu: the “Mother Club”.

Thus, all Hawaiian Civic Clubs have stemmed from the original one which was started by the above named Founding Fathers, under Kūhiō, and all, to this very day, are responsible for and dedicated to the education of the Hawaiian, the elevation of his social, economic and intellectual status as they promote the principles of good government, outstanding citizenship, and civic pride in the inherent progress of Hawaii and all her people.”

— “Sis” Widemann
February, 1980


Prince Jonah Kūhiō Kalanianaʻole 3-part video for keiki, 2021

Prince Jonah Kūhiō – Kealiʻi Makaʻainana, The Citizen Prince (Dept. of Hawaiian Homelands)

He Inoa no Kalanianaʻole: Moʻokūʻauhau, Mele, & Manaʻo with Manu Boyd (video; Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement), 2021

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