Sunday, September 9, 2001

Lawyer’s career guided
by integrity



By Lisa Asato

Prominent Hawaii lawyer Clinton Ashford, affectionately known as "Tink," died Wednesday in Queen's Medical Center. He was 76.

A founding partner of the law firm Ashford & Wriston, Ashford may be best known in recent years for representing Bishop Estate in challenging the constitutionality of Hawaii's Land Reform Act, which let lease holders buy fee-simple titles to their lots.

"He appeared before me opposing (the Land Reform Act), and I decided against him," recalled U.S. District Judge Sam King, a close friend of Ashford's for 51 years. He ultimately argued the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled 8-0 against him. But the ruling "didn't mean he wasn't a good lawyer," King said.

Just the opposite, King said. He respected Ashford's knowledge, preparation and integrity.

"He was absolutely incorruptible, and he was a strong man if you wanted somebody who would stand up for something," he said.

Ashford, a grandson of the attorney general for King Kalakaua, was himself appointed deputy attorney general of the Territory in 1953.

Two years later he founded the law firm with partners William Stephenson and James Wriston.

"What he taught us at the firm was unless you have your integrity you really don't have anything as a lawyer ... and that was the way he conducted himself," said partner Rosemary Fazio.

Fazio said Ashford learned the law from his Aunt Marguerite, the first female attorney in Hawaii. That experience probably molded his attitude toward female lawyers, Fazio said, adding that Ashford encouraged female lawyers and "did everything he could to help them."

Ashford was president of the Hawaii State Bar Association in 1972 and also served on the American Bar Association's House of Delegates. He also served as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Republic of the Marshall Islands from 1989 to 1996.

"He was a fisherman, a sailor, he loved the land, the people of Hawaii," Fazio said. "He was just a really down-to-earth person even though he did so many amazing things."

Ashford graduated from the University of Michigan law school in 1950.

A retired lieutenant commander with the Navy, Ashford's community service included board memberships with Aloha United Way, Hawaii Loa College and the Robert F. Lange Foundation.

King said the nickname "Tink" followed Ashford from childhood.

"You just had to say 'Clinton' long enough, and you'd get tired, so you'd just say 'Tink,'" King said.

Cuyler Shaw, managing partner at Ashford & Wriston, said Ashford remained active in the firm until July, when illness prevented him from doing so.

"(Ashford is) tremendously well-respected in the legal profession both for his lawyer skills and his contribution to the bar and the Hawaii community," Shaw said.

Ashford is survived by his wife, Beverly; daughter Marguerite Ashford-Hirano; sons Frank, Bruce and James; brother James; and six grandchildren.

Services will be held Saturday at 3 p.m. at Punahou Chapel. The family requests no flowers. Donations may be made to the University of Hawaii Foundation-Ashford Memorial Fund or to charity.

E-mail to City Desk

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]

© 2001 Honolulu Star-Bulletin