Kauai’s Clem Gomes

In his boyhood, Hanama‘ulu-born Clem Gomes (1892-1948) quit school to help support his family by working in the sugarcane fields at 25 cents a day, and by the age of 14, he was washing horses and buggies for $1.50 per week at Waimea Stables — a transportation, feed and livery business that rented out drays, carriages, horses and mules, and operated out of branches in Waimea and Nawiliwili.

In 1920, Gomes became manager of Waimea Stables, and when American Factors purchased the firm in 1929 and incorporated it as Nawiliwili Transportation Co., Gomes stayed on as manager.  He bought controlling interest in the company in 1940 and was general manager until his death.

Gomes entered politics in 1924 and served as a representative continuously through the 1939 session, except for one defeat in the 1932 campaign.

A colorful character who entertained crowds at rallies with his ‘ukulele, Gomes was elected to the senate in 1940, ran unopposed for reelection in 1944 and served as senate president in 1947, but lost in 1948 to Manuel Aguiar Jr.

Although forced by circumstances to leave school as a boy, he made up for his lack of formal education by taking correspondence courses.  Self-educated, he particularly appreciated the value of an education. 

One outcome of this was his backing in the Legislature of elevating Waimea School (est. 1882) to high school status in 1936.  The gymnasium on its campus bears his name.

Gomes’ legislative work also resulted in the construction of today’s Lihu‘e Airport.  Its groundbreaking ceremony occurred on the day he died, November 4, 1948.

Clem Gomes, a self-made man and a graduate of the University of Hard Knocks who came up the hard way, was also a veteran of World War I.  He and Mrs. Mary Gomes had one son.

  1. Michael Clement Gomes July 20, 2021 10:09 am Reply

    Came across this article about my grandfather I never met him. He past away ten years before my birth. My dad never talked about his side of the family. So it was enlightening to get a glimpse of my family’s past

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