The HONOLULU 100 – John Bellinger to Anna Rice Cooke

John Bellinger (1923-1989)

As a star football player at Roosevelt High School, John Bellinger showed signs of the businessman he would become. “He was the only end that I know of, in the history of Hawai’i football, who called all the plays–that tells you a lot about him,” says Walter Dods, chairman of First Hawaiian Bank. A leader, with a big heart.”

Bellinger emerged as one of Honolulu’s most powerful executives in an era when the Big Five still dominated local business. He joined First Hawaiian, then known as Bishop National Bank, as a teller in 1942, and quickly worked his way up the corporate ladder. At 45, in 1969, he became the youngest president in the bank’s history. Ten years later, he took over as chairman and CEO. 

Not only did he lead the bank through two decades of growth, he set an example with his community service, sitting on numerous boards and raising millions of dollars for such projects as the renovations of the East-West Center’s Imin Conference Center, Kawaiaha’o Church and Palama Settlement. He also co-founded the Hawaiian Open golf tournament, now the Sony Open, in 1965.

photo: courtesy of First Hawaiian Bank


photo: The Bishop Musuem

Heinrich “Henry” Berger (1844-1929)

The Royal Hawaiian Band is the oldest municipal band in the United States, and we can thank Henry Berger for its sturdy foundation. At the request of King Kamehameha V, the King of Prussia sent to Honolulu a young composer and bandleader, Heinrich Berger. At that time, the king’s band was “barely viable,” says Dr. Niklaus Schweizer, chairman of the Friends of the Royal Hawaiian Band. In his 43 years as conductor, Berger led the band to international acclaim.

Berger became a Hawaiian subject in 1879. He found that, except for hymns, there was no Hawaiian music recorded in print, and rose to the occasion, seeking out and arranging Hawaiian chants and music. He also worked with the royal family to record their music for posterity, says Schweizer. For his service, Queen Lili’uokalani called Berger “The Father of Hawaiian Music.”

“It was a remarkable synthesis with the Hawaiian musicians, the royal family and Berger,” says Schweizer. “These three together made Hawai’i’s music famous.”


Neal Blaisdell (1902-1975)

Today, Neal Blaisdell’s name is associated with O’ahu’s premier concert hall. But for 14 years, from 1955 to 1969, he was our mayor.

Blaisdell shepherded Honolulu through the process of statehood, and faced the monumental task of managing a massive increase in population and tourism on O’ahu.

At the beginning of his mayoral career in 1955, the city had 353,000 residents, a budget of $25 million and 4,157 city and county employees. By the late ’60s, the population had doubled, the city budget increased to $93 million and the city employed 7,000 people. 

Public works were a key priority; during his tenure, the city completed the Wilson Tunnel and commissioned the Hawai’i International Center, which now carries his name.

Never shy, the former football star made countless public appearances. Former city clerk Eileen Kauhane Lota says, “He was a tremendous personality. He represented the city with warmth and caring.”

photo: City and County of Honolulu


photo: courtesy of Mark Bernstein

Harriet Bouslog (1912-1998)

One of the first woman attorneys in Hawai’i, Harriet Bouslog made a career out of taking on Hawai’i’s power elite. She became known as the feisty advocate for the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, successfully defending 400 plantation workers who’d been arrested while on strike and charged with violating a century-old law against unlawful assembly. In the communist hysteria of the early ’50s, Bouslog represented the “Hawai’i Seven,” including ILWU head Jack Hall, accused of conspiring to overthrow the government.

Bouslog lent her legal expertise to those who needed it the most–the poor and the powerless. She was her own version of the ACLU and Legal Aid, before either organization ever had an office in the Islands. Her victory in the case of John Palakiko and James Majors, two young locals sentenced to death in 1950, is credited with helping to abolish capital punishment in Hawai’i.

“Harriet changed the power structure, ripped it apart and turned it on its head,” says Mark Bernstein, her last law partner. “It threw people off, because there was nothing like her back then.” 


Gladys Brandt (1906-2003)

All of Hawai’i mourned when Gladys Kamakakuokalani Ainoa Brandt passed away. The first Native Hawaiian principal of Kamehameha’s girls’ school, she is revered as a kupuna and a supporter of Hawaiian culture.

Even after her retirement from Kamehameha Schools in 1971, Brandt continued to exert her unique brand of influence. She was instrumental in founding the University of Hawai’i’s Kamakakuokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies, which carries her name, and served on several powerful boards, including the UH Board of Regents and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs Board of Trustees.

Neil Hannahs, director of Kamehameha Schools’ land assets division, remembers Brandt as a commanding, but warm, presence. “She was universally respected,” he says. “She could hang with Bobby Pfeiffer and the boys on Bishop Street one day, and then go home to Kaua’i and meet with people in the country, just regular Hawaiians. She had a knack for bridging differences and helping people come together.”

photo: courtesy of Kamehameha Schools


photo: Hawai’i State Archives

Gov. John Burns (1909-1975)

John Burns rose quickly through the ranks of the Honolulu Police Department, eventually becoming its chief. In that department, he became a proponent for Americans of Japanese ancestry (AJAs) and developed political ties that were important for his future career.

Burns believed in equality for all, strongly supporting the formation of the 100th Battalion and 442nd Regimental Combat Team.

In 1948, Burns chaired the Democratic County Committee. In the late ’50s, he served as the territory’s representative to Congress, where he’s credited with strategizing Hawai’i’s campaign forstatehood.

Burns campaigned to be Hawai’i’s first governor in 1959, but lost to Republican William Quinn. Unwavering, Burns won the next election and the three consecutive terms thereafter, serving as governor from 1962 to 1974. In that time, Burns helped change the tone of local politics from Republican to Democratic.

Education was also a primary concern. Burns developed the University of Hawai’i’s East-West Center and championed higher education by developing the university’s law and medical schools. The medical school today bears his name. 


Charles Campbell (1918-1986)

Sign waving has become such a ubiquitous part of election season in Hawai’i, you could be forgiven for assuming that it’s been around forever. But this uniquely local tradition was actually the invention of one man, Charles Campbell, in 1968. Campbell, then a social studies teacher at Farrington High School, was running for City Council, and decided to enlist his own students in the campaign. “He started sign waving to get students involved in the political process,” council member Ann Kobayashi says.

Sign waving didn’t get Campbell elected that year, but Campbell would go on to become O’ahu’s first black senator in 1976. “He was always supporting the little guy, the working, the poor, students and minorities,” Kobayashi says. As head of the Hawai’i State Teachers Association, Campbell led the union in the nation’s first statewide teachers strike in the early ’70s.

photo: Farrington High School yearbook


photo: courtesy of Mountain Apple Co.

Robert (1949-  ) and Roland (1950-  ) Cazimero 

Every May Day for the past 28 years, The Brothers Cazimero have performed for packed, if not sold-out, crowds at the city’s Waikiki Shell.

Robert plucks his acoustic bass, his tenor voice flawlessly pronouncing every word of their signature songs, from “Home in the Islands” to “Ala Anuhea.” Roland sits on a podium, harmonizing with his older brother as his fingers fly across his 12-string guitar.

“The Hawaiian word is kahe, and that means to just flow–that’s what Roland and I do,” says Robert. “We don’t really have to talk during concerts. We’ve gotten it down to a Brothers Caz science.”   

In the 1970s, the Cazimeros helped reawaken a passion for authentic Hawaiian music. More than 30 years later, the duo remains one of Hawai’i’s most beloved groups, with 36 musical recordings, dozens of Na Hoku Hanohano Awards and, earlier this year, a Grammy nomination for Best Hawaiian Music Album.


Hung Wo Ching (1912-1996)

Hung Wo Ching was the first president of Aloha Airlines–a pretty substantial feat for an Asian American in the 1950s. “Credit in those days was not easy to get for Asian businessmen,” says Stuart Ho, a friend of Ching’s. Starting a business or just getting a job was a challenge, as postwar Hawai’i was filled with racial discrimination. Ching, along with business associate Ruddy Tongg, took a stand against the prejudice by creating a hui. The group pooled together its money and started Trans-Pacific Airlines. When Ching took over the company in 1958, the name was changed to Aloha Airlines.

“It was an uphill struggle,” says Ho, as many Asians had to fight their way into prominence. But through it all, Ching was fun to be around, says Ho. “If you ask the old time employees of Aloha Airlines, they remember those early days very fondly–and they were tough times.”

photo: courtesy of Aloha Airlines


photo: courtesy of Honolulu Academy of Arts

Anna Rice Cooke (1853-1934)

Beautiful art has the power to transcend both language and culture. That was the goal of Anna Rice Cooke, founder of the Honolulu Academy of Arts. As the wife of Charles M. Cooke, founder and former president of Bank of Hawai’i, Anna had the ability to travel the world in search of fine art. “She was a visionary,” says Steven Little, director at the Honolulu Academy of Arts.

Anna was the driving force behind the academy. When her collection of beloved art grew too large, she commissioned the museum, on the site of her former home. The academy opened in 1927, with 4,000 pieces from her collection. Today, it boasts more than 45,000 works of art.

Perhaps even more inspiring than her dedication to art was her commitment to sharing her knowledge. “She named it the academy, not the museum, because she wanted to emphasize education,” Little says.