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George R. Ariyoshi

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George Ryoichi Ariyoshi (有吉良一, born March 12, 1926), served as the third Governor of Hawaiʻi from 1974 to 1986. He is a member of the Democratic Party. He assumed the governorship when John A. Burns was declared incapacitated. When he was elected, Ariyoshi became the first American of Asian descent to be elected governor of a state of the United States. He also holds the record as the longest-serving state governor in Hawaiʻi, a record that will likely never be broken because of term limits. Ariyoshi is now considered an elder statesman of the Democratic Party of Hawaiʻi.

Born in Honolulu, Hawaiʻi, to Japanese immigrant parents, Ariyoshi graduated in 1944 from McKinley High School. As World War II drew to a close, he served as an interpreter with the U.S. Army Military Intelligence Service in Japan. Upon returning stateside, he first attended the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, then transferred to Michigan State University, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1949. He then went on to receive his law degree from the University of Michigan Law School.

Ariyoshi's political career began in 1954 when he was elected to the territorial house of representatives. He was later elected to the territorial senate in 1958, then to the State Senate in 1959. He served in the senate until 1970 when he ran for and was elected Lieutenant Governor of Hawaiʻi in 1970 with Governor John A. Burns. When Governor Burns fell ill in October 1973, Ariyoshi assumed his constitutional role as acting governor.

In the election of 1974, he was elected governor in his own right, with Nelson Doi as his lieutenant governor. He was re-elected in 1978 with Jean King as lieutenant governor and in 1982 with John D. Waihee III as lieutenant governor. Ariyoshi's administration was marked by fiscal conservatism as the post-statehood economic boom came to an end. He guided the state through its first economic recession. Barred by term limits from seeking another term in 1986, Ariyoshi was succeeded by Waihee. After leaving public office, he served in a variety of corporate and non-profit capacities.

Ariyoshi married Jean Miya Hayashi, in 1955, in Honolulu, Hawaiʻi. They have a daughter, Lynn, born in 1957; and two sons, Ryozo, born in 1959, and Donn, 1961.

In her book "Washington Place: A First Lady's Story", Jean Ariyoshi credits former police officer Larry Mehau as becoming responsible for her family's safety. Mehau was also named "Neighbor Islands Coordinator" for her husband's campaign for governor. In the book she states that Mehau, although having a reputation as being honest and tough, was nicknamed in the press as "the Godfather." She does not mention why he was given this nickname, but the press did so because he was accused of having ties to the criminal underworld. According to Jean Ariyoshi, Mehau offered his help but told her husband: "I know I'm controversial, so don't put me up in front." Her husband responded: "I've known you for a long time and I've known you to be a good and honest person. What kind of friend would I be if I said 'I want your help but I don't want anyone to know you're helping me?' I'm not afraid to have people know of our friendship." In his own 200-page autobiography, "With Obligation to All", George Ariyoshi does not mention Larry Mehau at all.

Ariyoshi has also served as president of the Hawaii Bar Association and served on the board of directors for First Hawaiian Bank, the Honolulu Gas Company and Hawaiian Insurance Guaranty Company. He also served on the board of governors at the East-West Center, based in Honolulu, an internationally known education and research organization that was established by U.S. Congress. As governor, he is credited with revitalizing the organization, and joined the board when his term as governor ended. He served five terms as chairman, until he was not reappointed by Republican Governor Linda Lingle, in 2003.

After his term as governor, in 1987, Ariyoshi and his wife were stopped by U.S. Customs at the Honolulu International Airport because they failed to declare over $30,000.00 worth of jewelry after returning from a trip to Japan. The Ariyoshis paid $11,389.00 in fines. Former Gov. Ariyoshi resigned from the Board of Directors of First Hawaiian Bank to spare them "any embarrassment"

Lines of Succession

preceded by
John A. Burns - D
dates
1974–1986
succeeded by
John D. Waihee III - D
preceded by
Thomas Gill - D
dates
1970–1973
succeeded by
Nelson Doi - D