Kauai legislator and businessman John B. Fernandes

Born at Kapaia, Kauai, the son of Manuel B. Sr. and Mary Medeiros Fernandes, John B. Fernandes (1892-1979) was educated at Lihue Grammar School in Pua Loke and at St. Louis College (later renamed St. Louis School), Oahu.

His political career began in 1933 with his election as a Democrat to the Kauai County Board of Supervisors, after which he served one term in the Territorial House of Representatives.

Then for 20 years, from 1938 to 1958, he was a member of the Territorial Senate.

Although highly popular, Fernandes was a political maverick and at times a fiery public figure.

He advocated legalized gambling, particularly cockfighting, twice threatened to switch to the Republican Party, and absented himself from special sessions of the Legislature in order to sail off on world tours.

Also, on Feb. 7, 1934, his old-fashioned sense of honor was readily apparent during a meeting of the Kauai Board of Supervisors inside the County Building, after board member Dr. Sau Yee Chang called him a liar and he reacted by shouting, “You can’t call me a liar!” while rushing around a table to take a number of wild swings at Chang, one of which landed.

Gentlemen at heart that they were, Chang and Fernandes soon regained their composure, shook hands and went to lunch together.

A supporter of organized labor, Fernandes later testified as a character witness for pioneer Hawaii labor leader Jack Hall in 1953, while Hall was on trial under the Smith Act, which was enacted in 1940 and made it a crime to advocate the overthrow of the U. S. government.

Sen. Fernandes was president of the Kapaa Ice and Soda Works, the Kapaa Electric Company, the Puhi Company, F and M Brothers, and Kapaia Store, now the site of Kapaia Stitchery. John B. Fernandes and Mrs. Jessie Camara Fernandes had four sons: George, William, Stanley and John B. Jr.

Son William also went into politics and served on the Kauai County Council and in the Territorial and State legislatures.


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