Robert 'Bob' Schmitt / 1922-2006
Facts ruled for state statistician
The information guru created the annual Hawaii Data Book
ANY research on Hawaii's history and people will likely lead an inquiring government planner or lawmaker, social service agency, business or labor leader, writer or student to the work of Bob Schmitt.
The former state statistician found endless ways to collect information and put it into authoritative, scientific form. He was the creator of the Hawaii Data Book, published annually for more than 30 years through 2000 and now available online. In 1978 he completed "Historical Statistics of Hawaii," a mammoth collection of facts still available in bookstores and libraries.
Schmitt, 84, died Saturday at his home.
"Bob was the Google before the Internet was invented," said retired Star-Bulletin news editor Chuck Frankel. "He was interested in Hawaiian history, Hawaiian fish, Hawaiian movies ... in ethnic makeup, income, interracial marriages, everything about people."
Schmitt was the author of more than 200 articles published in professional and technical journals and of five books including "Hawaii's Firsts and Near Firsts," published in 1995, and the 1988 "Hawaii in the Movies, 1898-1959," which combined his personal interest in movies with his skill as data collector.
He was named one of Hawaii's distinguished historians by the Hawaiian Historical Society in 1992, the year he retired from the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, and was given national recognition by the American Statistical Association.
Lynn Zane, retired DBEDT research and statistics officer, said Schmitt invented a method of estimating population that was adopted by the U.S. Census Bureau and is used to track population changes in the years between 10-year censuses.
Jan Nakamoto, the department's current research statistician, said Schmitt's working files, handwritten notes and correspondence will become part of the State Archives. "His legacy was that he put whatever he collected into documents. I'm in awe of him. He could take information from all different places and put it together; he would see what data goes together."
Author Eleanor Nordyke said Schmitt was "a walking encyclopedia of information, always gracious and willing to answer questions. He had a generous spirit." Of all his written work, her favorite is the foreword Schmitt wrote in her book "The Peopling of Hawaii."
"Everybody knows him for his numbers, but he was more cultured than that," said friend Tony Oliver. "He loved good music and good food. He was a great guy to talk to. He was interested in the world. He loved to travel all over the Pacific islands."
Schmitt was born in Cincinnati and earned bachelor's and master's degrees at the University of Cincinnati. He moved to Hawaii in 1947 and held research jobs for the Chamber of Commerce of Honolulu and the Honolulu Redevelopment Agency and in Cincinnati and Seattle before joining the territorial government. In 1963 the late Gov. John Burns named him state statistician, the only person ever to hold that title.
He is survived by wife Sylvia Mitchell, son Rolf Schmitt of Baltimore and stepdaughter Sandra S. Zichterman of San Diego.
A memorial service will be held at a later date.