Born in Lihu‘e in 1874, the grandson of Kaua‘i missionaries and the eldest son of William Hyde Rice, Kaua‘i’s last governor, William Henry Rice was elected Sheriff continuously from 1905 through 1942. (Elected sheriffs headed Kaua‘i’s police force until Sheriff Edwin Crowell was appointed Chief of Police in 1943.
When Rice first became Sheriff, the police force numbered only 15 officers and 5 deputies. By 1935, it had grown to just 30 officers with 5 deputies. Today, in 2007, it numbers about 129 officers.
In the early days, pay for police was $30 per month, while Rice earned $175 a month.
And back then, there were about 15 cars on Kaua‘i, but the police department owned none of them. Nor were officers provided with horses. Instead, they traveled about Kaua‘i using their own horses and carriages on roads that were either dusty or muddy, since not one foot of roadway had yet been paved.
It took five or six hours to ride from Lihu‘e to court in Hanalei or Waimea. Rice would start out about four in the morning and would often not return to Lihu‘e until as late as midnight.
Not until 1915 did Rice get his own car, license number 350, the 350th license issued on Kaua‘i.
Rice also became a hotelier in 1894 when he purchased Charles W. Spitz’s Lihue Hotel, Kaua‘i’s first bona fide hotel, which Spitz had opened in 1890.
It was located on property now occupied by Kalapaki Villas on Rice Street, and Rice managed it until not long before his death in 1945.
In 1946, the hotel was sold through Rice’s estate and its name was changed to the Kauai Inn in 1948. It remained in operation on Rice Street until 1963.
Sheriff Rice and Mrs. Rice had two daughters and three sons.