Former Lt. Governor Jean King dies

Published On: Nov 25 2013 10:26:00 PM HST

Many Hawaii lawmakers and those who knew Jean King are mourning the loss of the woman who broke political barriers and encouraged everyday citizens to create change in their communities.

Click here to watch Paul Drewes' report.

In 1978, King became the state's first woman to be elected as lieutenant governor. Before that historic moment, she had been working at the State Capitol for six years as a state representative then senator.

"While she was a senator, she pushed very hard for the Sunshine Law that opens up government to people, shoreline protection, and the state bottle bill. She was an environmentalist and a reformer who made her mark. She will be missed," said her former press secretary Chuck Freedman.

King was lieutenant governor under George Arioshi, and in 1982 she ran against him.
After that loss, King did not run for political office again but she still stayed involved in politics.

"She remained faithful to the cause throughout her life. The cause being: standing up for the underdog, moving things forward and showing real compassion," said Freedman.

That compassion was seen at the Hawaii Peace and Justice Center in Manoa.

"She was a humble and positive soul. She was very committed to peace," said Kyle Kajihiro, a board member of Hawaii Peace and Justice.

King was called a hard charger in politics but those who knew her at the Quaker House, where she attended services for decades, said she had a gentle way of doing things. Her way inspired others to take action.

"Her concerns in recent years were the homeless, and the penal system. She was involved in the 'Bring the prisoners back' movement," said Robert Bley-Vroman, the Clerk of Honolulu Friends Meeting.

King was known for giving other members of the Honolulu Friends handwritten notes with words of encouragement or sayings designed to spark deeper thinking.

Her chair at the Quaker House is now empty, and members said King left behind a huge void.

Along with those notes, King left a legacy as a political pioneer and a person passionate about individuals being able to make a positive difference.

"It's a deep loss for Hawaii, but I think her legacy -- what she has left with us, her passions and ideas will live on in our work," said Kajihiro.

King was a supporter of unions and wanted to hold a concert at the University of Hawaii featuring union songs this past Labor Day. While the concert did not happen, her Quaker friends said they may try to hold the concert next year in King's honor.

The former lieutenant governor had been ill for at least a month, and passed away Sunday at the age of 87.


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