Kauai politician and businessman Anthony C. “Tony” Baptiste Jr. (1910-1988) was born in Koloa and worked for McBryde Sugar Co., prior to his founding of a trucking company that handled mail and freight deliveries on Kauai under federal government contract during World War II; he would also later operate a car rental and taxicab business on Kauai.
During a controversial political career that began in 1942, Baptiste was a member of the Kauai County Board of Supervisors for six years, was elected its chairman — the equivalent of mayor in those days — for 10 years (1951-1960), and served for one term in the House of Representatives.
In 1955, Chairman Baptiste was tried, convicted and sentenced in Honolulu to one year in jail at Oahu Prison for failing to file a federal income tax return for 1952 — his plea of not guilty, citing business pressure and the failure of his bookkeeper to attend to tax returns, having come to no avail.
Since there were no provisions in territorial law that would have dismissed him from public office because of his conviction, and since petitions seeking his removal were never filed, Baptiste continued to draw his chairman’s salary while incarcerated and effectively ran Kauai County from behind bars.
Upon his return to Kauai in April 1956, after having served 10 months of his sentence, he was welcomed with leis and a serenade by about 100 people at Lihue Airport.
He then reoccupied his desk in the County Building and was feted at a public reception attended by around 250 people later in the day at Hanamaulu Park.
Both the airport and park events were arranged by the ILWU, which wanted him reelected.
Notwithstanding his criminal record, the voters of Kauai County reelected Baptiste as chairman in November 1956 by 5,111 to 4,686 votes; the ever- popular chairman won again in 1958.
Mr. Anthony C. Baptiste Jr. and Mrs. Eva Baptiste’s son, Bryan Baptiste, was a member of the Kauai County Council and was mayor of Kauai from 2002 to 2008.