John D. Waihee III

From Academic Kids

John David Waihee III was the first American of Native Hawaiian descent to be elected governor in the United States.
John David Waihee III was the first American of Native Hawaiian descent to be elected governor in the United States.

John David Waihee III, also popularly known as John Waihee (born May 19, 1946), served as the fourth Governor of Hawaii from 1986 to 1994. He was the first American of Native Hawaiian descent to be elected to the office from any state of the United States. After his tenure in the governor's office, Waihee became a nationally prominent attorney and lobbyist.



Waihee was born in Honokaa on the Big Island of Hawaii. Upon graduating from high school, Waihee attended classes at Andrews University in Michigan. There he obtained his bachelor of arts degrees in both business and history. He moved to Honolulu to attend the newly established William S. Richardson School of Law at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. He obtained his Juris Doctor degree in 1976.


Waihee started his political career as a delegate to the 1978 Hawaii State Constitutional Convention where he was instrumental in the creation of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and the adoption of the Hawaiian language as the official language of the state. He later served one term as a Democratic member of the Hawaii State House of Representatives from 1981 to 1983. Waihee was elected Lieutenant Governor of Hawaii under Governor George R. Ariyoshi, serving in that capacity until 1986.


Waihee successfully ran for the governor's office sharing a ticket with state senator Benjamin J. Cayetano. Cayetano became Waihee's lieutenant governor for two terms; both were re-elected in 1990. During much of Waihee's term, Hawaii experienced a boom in the tourism industry and increased foreign investment, especially from Japan. The issue of Hawaiian sovereignty also took on increased importance as the centennial anniversary of the overthrow of Queen Liliuokalani occurred during Waihee's term. Waihee honored the anniversary by ordering the removal of all American flags flying over state buildings, an action for which Waihee was criticized for nationwide. Waihee left office in 1994, having served the maximum two terms in office as permitted by the Constitution of Hawaii that he had helped to author. His lieutenant governor won the election to succeed Waihee.


Upon his dismissal from the governor's office, Waihee worked for various national-scope law firms based in Washington, DC. He also opened a private law practice and lobbying firm. In special elections held in 2002 and 2003, Waihee considered running for the United States House of Representatives seat left open by the death of Patsy Mink on September 28, 2002. Mink did not withdraw from the race and consequently was re-elected even after her death. Waihee dropped out of the first special election and endorsed the candidacy of Mink's widower.

Preceded by:
George R. Ariyoshi
Governor of Hawai‘i
1986 - 1994
Succeeded by:
Benjamin J. Cayetano

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