George Ariyoshi

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George R. Ariyoshi
George Ariyoshi Portrait.jpg
Ariyoshi in 2009
3rd Governor of Hawaii
In office
December 2, 19741 – December 2, 1986
Lieutenant Nelson Doi
Jean King
John D. Waihee
Preceded by John A. Burns
Succeeded by John D. Waihee
4th Lieutenant Governor of Hawaii
In office
December 2, 1970 – December 2, 1974
Governor John A. Burns
Preceded by Thomas Gill
Succeeded by Nelson Doi
Member of the Hawaii Senate
In office
Personal details
Born (1926-03-12) March 12, 1926 (age 96)
Honolulu, Hawaii
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Jean Hayashi
Children 3
Alma mater University of Michigan
Profession Lawyer
Military service
Service/branch United States Army
Unit Military Intelligence
Battles/wars World War II
1. Served as Acting Governor from October 17, 1973 to December 2, 1974 during the illness of Gov. John A. Burns

George Ryoichi Ariyoshi (有吉良一; born March 12, 1926) is an American politician who served as the third Governor of Hawaii from 1974 to 1986. He is a member of the Democratic Party. He assumed the governorship when John A. Burns was declared incapacitated. When he was elected, Ariyoshi became the first American of Asian descent to be elected governor of a state of the United States. He also holds the record as the longest-serving state governor in Hawaiʻi, a record likely to remain unbroken because of term limits enacted after his tenure. Ariyoshi is now considered an elder statesman of the Democratic Party of Hawaiʻi.

Early life

Born in Honolulu, Hawaiʻi, to Japanese immigrant parents, Ariyoshi graduated in 1944 from McKinley High School. As World War II drew to a close, he served as an interpreter with the U.S. Army Military Intelligence Service in Japan. Upon returning stateside, he first attended the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, then transferred to Michigan State University, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1949. He then went on to receive his law degree from the University of Michigan Law School in 1952.[1]

Political career

Ariyoshi's political career began in 1954 when he was elected to the Hawaii Territorial House of Representatives. He was later elected to the Hawaii Territorial Senate in 1958, then to the Hawaii State Senate in 1959. He served in the senate until 1970 when he ran for and was elected Lieutenant Governor of Hawaii in 1970 with Governor John A. Burns. When Governor Burns fell ill in October 1973, Ariyoshi assumed his constitutional role as acting governor.


In the election of 1974, he was elected governor in his own right, with Nelson Doi as his lieutenant governor. He was re-elected in 1978 with Jean King as lieutenant governor and in 1982 with John D. Waihee III as lieutenant governor. Ariyoshi's administration was marked by fiscal conservatism as the post-statehood economic boom came to an end. He guided the state through its first economic recession. He has gathered some criticism for having only people with Japanese surnames on his staff, many were relatives. Barred by term limits from seeking another term in 1986, Ariyoshi was succeeded by Waihee. After leaving public office, he served in a variety of corporate and non-profit capacities.

Personal life

Ariyoshi married Jean Miya Hayashi in 1955 in Honolulu, Hawaiʻi. They have a daughter, Lynn, born in 1957; and two sons, Ryozo, born in 1959, and Donn, 1961.

In her book Washington Place: A First Lady's Story, Jean Ariyoshi credits former police officer Larry Mehau as becoming responsible for her family's safety. Mehau was also named "Neighbor Islands Coordinator" for her husband's campaign for governor. In the book she states that Mehau, although having a reputation as being honest and tough, was nicknamed in the press as "the Godfather". She does not mention why he was given this nickname, but the press did so because he was accused of having ties to the criminal underworld. According to Jean Ariyoshi, Mehau offered his help but told her husband: "I know I'm controversial, so don't put me up in front." Her husband responded: "I've known you for a long time and I've known you to be a good and honest person. What kind of friend would I be if I said 'I want your help but I don't want anyone to know you're helping me?' I'm not afraid to have people know of our friendship." In his own 200-page autobiography, With Obligation to All, George Ariyoshi does not mention Larry Mehau at all.

Ariyoshi has also served as president of the Hawaii Bar Association and served on the board of directors for First Hawaiian Bank, the Honolulu Gas Company and Hawaiian Insurance Guaranty Company. He also served on the board of governors at the East-West Center, based in Honolulu, an internationally-known education and research organization that was established by U.S. Congress. As governor, he is credited with revitalizing the organization, and joined the board when his term as governor ended. He served five terms as chairman, until he was not reappointed by Republican Governor Linda Lingle in 2003.

After his term as governor in 1987, Ariyoshi and his wife were stopped by U.S. Customs at the Honolulu International Airport because they failed to declare over $30,000.00 worth of jewelry after returning from a trip to Japan. The Ariyoshis paid $11,389.00 in fines. Former Gov. Ariyoshi resigned from the Board of Directors of First Hawaiian Bank to spare them "any embarrassment".


  1. John A. Burns: the man and his times - Dan Boylan, T. Michael Holmes - Google Boeken. Retrieved 2011-12-17.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Thomas Gill
Lieutenant Governor of Hawaii
Succeeded by
Nelson Doi
Preceded by
John A. Burns
Governor of Hawaii
Succeeded by
John D. Waihee III