Star-Bulletin 'kept beating the drums'


POSTED: Sunday, August 16, 2009

Fighter for statehood, Hawaii Delegate Joseph R. Farrington, cited a 1949 Gallup Poll showing that statehood was favored nationally by a substantial majority of voters, when he testified for statehood in Washington.



The Honolulu Star-Bulletin “;violated a lot of canons of present-day journalism”; to promote statehood for Hawaii, the late Adam A. “;Bud”; Smyser reflected in a 1990 interview conducted by the Center for Oral History.

The newspaper's longtime political writer, editor and columnist described the Star-Bulletin's pivotal role in the statehood fight under Publisher Joseph R. Farrington and Editor Riley Allen.

“;Although we maintained some semblance of objectivity on the news, you didn't have to read very long to know that we were for statehood.

“;If the story had a statehood slant, it wound up on Page 1 in the Star-Bulletin,”; he said. “;It might not even appear in the Advertiser. ... And when people came through town, congressmen and all, the first question they were asked (by Star-Bulletin reporters) is, Where do you stand on statehood?”;

Covering and working for statehood, Smyser said, “;was kind of a frontier experience. ... We were a political frontier for the country.”;

“;It was an endless statehood beat,”; recalled former Star-Bulletin reporter Lyle Nelson. “;It was the company line. I never thought of anything else.”;

Joseph Farrington, who succeeded his father, Wallace, as Star-Bulletin president and general manager, declared his intentions when he proposed to fellow student Elizabeth Pruett at the University of Wisconsin, Smyser said.

He said, “;You have to realize I'm dedicating my life to statehood for Hawaii, and if you want to be my wife, you'll have to be prepared to share in this.”;

Smyser said he worked closely with Farrington as a political reporter. “;It's a case where we were campaigning for virtue as far as I was concerned.”;

The battle cry was “;taxation without representation.”;

Smyser said he felt residents believed in the campaign because the newspaper built up a circulation twice that of the Advertiser in those days.

“;The Star-Bull was the one that kept beating the drums for statehood,”; said U.S. District Senior Judge Samuel P. King, “;You can't say enough about their support because it was intelligent—not just 'we want this'—and it was against the majority of the Big Five (companies that controlled the sugar business and related companies).

“;They didn't stop opposing it until a bill got through Congress which prohibited them from refining sugar on the West Coast.”;

King's father, Samuel Wilder King, and Farrington, both Republicans, teamed up in 1934 to run for office on a statehood ticket—Farrington for territorial Senate and King for delegate to Congress.

King introduced the first statehood bill that year and brought congressional teams here to look into statehood, while Farrington got the Legislature to create the Hawaii Equal Rights Commission, later the Statehood Commission.

Allen, the Farringtons and the Equal Rights Commission also battled to correct erroneous mainland stories and ignorance about Hawaii.

Allen went to newspaper and political conventions and worked with Democratic and Republican delegates to help draft pro-statehood planks and write them into party platforms.

“;He had a tremendous correspondence,”; Smyser said. “;He kept three secretaries busy for a while, mainly writing letters to contacts he made on the mainland pushing statehood. It was kind of a water-torture treatment.”;

A retired naval officer, King went back into the Navy in 1942, and Farrington became delegate to Congress—a post he held until his sudden death in 1954 at age 56.

Farrington used his newspaper connections, and he and his wife did a lot of entertaining to advance statehood. Vice President Harry Truman played piano in their home the night before Franklin Roosevelt died and he suddenly became president. Truman was the first president to endorse statehood for Hawaii, Smyser said.

Elizabeth “;Betty”; Farrington succeeded her husband as Star-Bulletin president and continued the statehood fight in Washington. She was elected delegate to Congress in 1954, but Democrat John A. Burns defeated her in 1956.

“;Hawaii was fortunate at the crucial moments of having a balancing force in Joe Farrington and Riley Allen,”; U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye said in an interview with the Star-Bulletin, citing some of the arguments used by statehood opponents. “;Joe Farrington and Riley Allen did more than just their part.”;

The Pacific Club, then closed to Asians, “;was another institution not too keen on statehood,”; Inouye said, and Farrington, “;a guy with a lot of guts,”; invited him there. “;I was vice president of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. He wanted to show this guy went overseas and fought, that he's a good American,”; Inouye said.

Farrington died of a heart attack June 19, 1954, frustrated by delaying tactics in the Congress, according to reports. “;After many years of fighting for statehood, he just didn't have the breaks,”; Inouye said. “;He died literally in his (Washington) office.”;

Jim Becker, former Star-Bulletin reporter and Associated Press correspondent, said that Lorrin P. Thurston, who owned the Advertiser and chaired the Statehood Commission, “;told me that although he said all the right things here and in Washington, he was actually opposed to statehood.”;

Southern Democrats did not approve of Hawaii's racial mixture and feared communist influence, Becker said, recalling a meeting between a U.S. Senate committee and then-Gov. Samuel Wilder King at Iolani Palace.

U.S. Sen. James Eastland of Mississippi asked King, “;How y'all handle minority problems out here?”; Becker said. “;Gov. King snapped quickly back, 'Senator, in Hawaii we're all in the minority.'”;