Former Lt. Gov. Tom Gill dies


POSTED: Thursday, June 04, 2009


Former Hawaii Lt. Gov. Thomas Gill died this morning at Leahi Hospital after a long illness. He was 87.

Gill served one term in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1963-64 and was lieutenant governor from 1966 to 1970.

He also served in the territorial and state House of Representatives from 1958 through 1962.

Gill, a lawyer in private practice, was active in local and national Democratic Party politics.

He ran unsuccessfully for governor in 1970 and 1974.

“He was smart and articulate and he was courageous,” said former state Sen. Mike McCartney,  head of the Hawaii Tourism Authority. “He took stands not on what was popular but what he believed was right. He leaves a tremendous legacy. Even though he wasn’t always in office, he had a tremendous impact.”

Gill’s activism included the Save Our Star-Bulletin committee of community leaders who successfully led an effort in federal court to keep Liberty Newspapers, former owner of the paper, from shutting it down in 1999. 

During his single term in the U.S.  House, he had a role in the passage of the Civil Rights Act. He was the author of Title VI of the act, the language that prohibited discrimination against persons who are in programs receiving federal financial assistance.

He served as House floor leader for the bill.

He made an unsuccessful bid for the U.S. Senate in 1964 and was tapped by then-Gov. John Burns to run the Office of  Economic Opportunity.

Although not Burns’ choice as running mate, he won election as lieutenant governor in 1966.

Gill was born in Honolulu and was a graduate of Roosevelt High School and the University of California at Berkeley, where he earned a law degree.

He had been active in the Hawaii Democratic Party since the early 1950s, holding party positions including chairman of the Oahu county committee, and served two terms in the state House just before and after Hawaii became a state. 

Plans for services are pending. The family suggests that memorial donations be made to the American Civil Liberties Union.