First Governor

First Governor

Written on 05/22/2022

Born in Honolulu as the son of Japanese immigrants, George Ariyoshi became the first governor of Japanese ancestry in the nation. 

After his education at the University of Hawaii, Michigan State University and Michigan Law School, Ariyoshi returned to Hawaii to pursue a private law practice. In the 1950s and '60s, he also served as a territorial representative and state senator. In 1970 he was elected lieutenant governor under Governor Burns; he served as acting governor when Burns became ill late in 1973. In 1974, Ariyoshi was elected governor, winning a second term in 1980. In his long political career, Ariyoshi never lost an election.

Since retiring from politics in 1986, Ariyoshi has remained active in the business community and as a member of the Board of Governors of the
East-West Center.

"As the first governor of Japanese ancestry, I felt a special obligation, and sometimes a special burden. From my background, I think you can see how the concept of haji came in. In Japanese terms, it was my job to avoid failure, to not bring shame on the family or on our heritage."

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