William Luther Wilcox, court interpreter and judge

The sixth of eight sons of American Protestant missionary teachers Abner and Lucy Hart Wilcox, William Luther Wilcox (1850-1903) was born and raised at Waioli, Kauai.

He was educated at Punahou, and in 1869, at age 19 — being fluent in the Hawaiian language — he secured the post of interpreter in the courts of the Hawaiian government in Honolulu.

The following year, in 1870, he took on similar duties in the Legislature

His nearly perfect knowledge of the Hawaiian language enabled him not only to translate promptly and accurately, but to interpret — a skill greatly admired by Hawaiian and English-speaking listeners in the Honolulu courts and Legislature of his day.

Trusted by King David Kalakaua and other prominent Native Hawaiians, Wilcox was the only Caucasian member of Hale Naua, Kalakaua’s secret society that otherwise limited membership to men with Hawaiian blood.

Established by Kalakaua in 1886, Hale Naua’s constitution stated that the society was dedicated to “the revival of Ancient Sciences of Hawaii in combination with the promotion and advancement of Modern Sciences, Art, Literature, and Philanthropy.”

Although its meetings were held in secret, its members would occasionally wear the feather capes and cloaks of chiefs in public, sponsor displays of Hawaiian artifacts, and promote the making of Hawaiian tapa, woodwork and shellwork.

Wilcox was appointed judge of the police court of Honolulu in 1897.

A few weeks before his death in Honolulu on July 12, 1903, he used a razor to remove a troublesome corn on his foot and gangrene set in shortly thereafter.

Surgeons then amputated his big toe at Queen’s Hospital, but to no avail, so they next amputated his leg below the knee, and he died soon after of complications of diseases, among them gangrene.

On the day of his funeral, a huge throng of Native Hawaiians, Hawaiian-born residents and foreigners filled Kawaiahao Church to pay their respects.

William Luther Wilcox and his wife, Mrs. Kahuila Wilcox, a Native Hawaiian of good family from Molokai, had no children.


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