Legislator helped Japanese Americans
Herbert K.H. Lee / 1912-2006
HERBERT K.H. LEE, a territorial legislator known as friend to the Japanese-American community, died June 7 in Honolulu at age 94.
Lee successfully fought the Yokohama Specie Bank in court to secure the release of local citizens' funds, which had been frozen during World War II. And he helped re-establish mail service between Okinawa and Hawaii immediately after the war.
Lee was a civil rights champion who fought for the release of Japanese-American internees during World War II.
Born in Waikiki in 1912, he was one of 10 children whose family ran a small store. He attended McKinley High School, the University of Hawaii and the University of Michigan Law School.
Lee, an attorney and businessman, served 15 years in the territorial House and Senate during the 1940s and '50s.
During his tenure, Lee pushed for statehood, traveling to Washington, D.C., to advocate the case before Congress. As a member of the statehood commission and chairman of the Bill of Rights subcommittee, he helped draft the state Constitution and was one of its original signers.
As senator, he urged the development of tourism and sponsored a measure that would create a commission to establish a long-range program for the development of recreational and tourist facilities, even offering loans for new hotel construction.
The legislator also supported development of affordable housing and fought to improve the school system.
After his political career, Lee involved himself in real estate ventures in Asia and Alaska.
Lee's family said he enjoyed traveling and meeting people of different backgrounds throughout his life. He also loved sports, excelling in basketball, baseball, swimming, tennis and golf and played on UH's 1931-32 championship basketball team.
He is survived by wife Irene Yap Lee, sons Herbert Jr. and Gordon Douglas Lee.
Private services were held. Donations in his name can be made to the Alzheimer's Association, www.alz.org