Island History

Lester Robinson

The first student from the western United States to graduate from Harvard in 3 1/2 years, Lester Beauclerk Robinson (1901-1969) became a highly successful assistant manager of his family’s extensive Kaua‘i sugar lands and its grazing lands on Kaua‘i and Ni‘ihau. And upon the death of his brother, Aylmer Robinson, in 1967, he inherited ownership of Ni‘ihau.

Extraordinarily fit, his daily exercise regimen, motivated by his concern that he might someday be disabled by accident in a remote area and be unable to recover due to physical weakness, consisted of 100 chin-ups immediately followed by five one-armed chin-ups on each arm.

His son, Keith, remembers his father’s toughness well, particularly the day Lester’s horse fell into a swamp while they were driving cattle. When Lester attempted to free the horse, it kicked him in the head, producing a large gash. Keith recalls squeezing blood out of a soaking neckerchief, but Lester refused to quit, resolutely stuck his hat on his bleeding head and rode off.

In Lester’s time, Ni‘ihau’s Hawaiian cowboys were inured to hardship as well. They were amazingly resistant to thirst. To conserve water, they and Lester, who spoke Hawaiian fluently, would drink nothing while working from before sunup until after sundown. Their horses could drink from black water holes, but they abstained.

Lester also possessed a peculiar sense of humor. After his wife accidentally drove over her pet Weimaraner in her carport, causing a minor pinching of its toes and a loud yelp, Lester and Aylmer, watching curiously nearby, offered first aid. When Mrs. Robinson later saw the result — her indignant-looking Weimaraner bandaged and splinted from muzzle to tail, lying stiffly by two sober-faced brothers — her remorse was genuine, that is until a suspicious glint in Aylmer’s eye betrayed their prank.

When Lester Robinson died, ownership of Ni‘ihau passed to his wife, Helen Robinson. Their sons, Bruce and Keith Robinson, now own Ni‘ihau.


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