Admission Day marked
State and county governments are closed today in observance of Admission Day — the day 60 years ago that Hawaii became the 50th state in the United States.
Admission Day, also known as Statehood Day, was established as a holiday to be observed on the third Friday of August. The actual admission date was Aug. 21, 1959, the day President Dwight D. Eisenhower unveiled the new U.S. flag with 50 stars. Alaska had become a state earlier in the year.
For the first time, Hawaii had voting members of Congress. Previously, the Territory of Hawaii had delegates who could lobby and take part in congressional proceedings but could not vote.
On March 12, 1959, Congress sent a bill to President Eisenhower recommending statehood for Hawaii, pending approval by Hawaii’s citizens. The June 27 vote was controversial since military personnel and dependents were allowed to cast ballots. At any rate, all but one of the 240 precincts in the islands voted in favor of statehood. The one holdout was Niihau, where the population was almost exclusively Native Hawaiian. Some 140,000 votes were cast, less than 8,000 opposing statehood.
The first governor of the state was William Quinn. Daniel Inouye was a U.S. representative. The speaker of the islands’ House of Representatives was Maui’s Elmer F. Cravalho.
In addition to achieving direct representation in Washington, D.C., the major effect of statehood on the islands was further centralization of government, partly due to the fact counties could not apply directly for federal funds. Among other things, the state took over operation of schools. Highways were divided between county and state.
One other event occurred in 1959 that had a major impact on the islands. Airlines began to schedule regular jet flights, ushering in the modern tourism era.
(Portions of this editorial have appeared previously in The Maui News.)
* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.