Judge Benjamin Tashiro

The son of immigrant sugar plantation field laborers, Judge Benjamin Tashiro (1904-1996) was born at McBryde Sugar Co. Camp 3, once located in Wahiawa Valley, mauka of Halewili Road, about midway between Eleele and Numila.

Following his graduation from Eleele School in 1917, Tashiro went on to graduate, in 1921, from the Territorial Normal & Training School in Honolulu — a sub-collegiate educational institution established to train students to become elementary school teachers in Hawaii.

Thereafter, he taught at Kalaheo School for four years, before attending Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and UCLA, where he worked his way through college by taking jobs as a butler, kitchen helper and fruit picker.

Tashiro then earned his law degree from the University of Francisco’s Hastings College of Law in 1932, after which, also in 1932, he became the first American of Japanese ancestry to open a law office on Kauai.

From 1934 to 1936, he served one term in Territorial House of Representatives.

Then, during World War II, Army Master Sergeant Tashiro taught Japanese language at the Military Intelligence School, Camp Savage, Minnesota.

In 1952, Territorial Governor Samuel Wilder King appointed him district court magistrate and, in 1953, assistant attorney general.

Two years later, Judge Tashiro became the first AJA to be appointed to a permanent judicial position by a United States president, when President Dwight Eisenhower named him 5th Circuit Judge of the Territory of Hawaii for Kauai.

When Hawaii became a state in 1959, Gov. William F. Quinn reappointed him judge of the 5th Circuit Court, a post he held until his retirement in 1969.

Judge Tashiro was perhaps best known for his 1968 initial landmark decision in the Hanapepe Valley water rights case, in which he determined the water entitlements of contesting parties Gay & Robinson and McBryde Sugar Co.

He and his wife, Gladys Tashiro, had five daughters: Ora, Alma, Lynn, Lani and Mimi.


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