Thomas P. Gill Papers
Thomas Gill donated 86 record center boxes of material to the University of Hawaii at Manoa Library and the formal deed of gift was signed on May 8, 2001. The collection was
archivally processed from July 2005 through March 2006.
The papers have been arranged into five series, further divided into subseries, and sub-
subseries (see Series, Subseries & Sub-subseries Listing). Unlabeled material has been assigned to appropriate series and subseries by the Archives staff.
The material was largely in fair to good condition. The boxes were reasonably well labeled as were the files in them. Many binders, paper clips, staples, and rubber bands had caused minor damage and were removed. Some newspaper clippings had crumbled and were discarded. Other clippings were retained, awaiting the staff and funds necessary to photocopy them before they disintegrate. Multiples of speeches and press releases were discarded after retaining the two best copies for the collection.
Gill’s experiences in Hawaii Democratic Party politics, in the U.S. House of Representatives and in the Lt. Governor’s office are well represented here. There is a smaller amount of material from his pre-Congressional life.
All of the papers are open for research, but since some files may contain information about individuals, the Archives staff may redact documents out of concern for personal privacy.
For other research and biographical material related to Thomas P. Gill, please consult the University of Hawaii Library’s online catalog, the Index to the Honolulu Advertiser and Honolulu Star-Bulletin, the online Newspaper Index maintained by the Hawaii State Library, the Congressional Record, the Hawaii State Archives, and papers of other members of Congress in the Hawaii Congressional Papers Collection and elsewhere. See also the “Artificial Files” of information about Gill collected by the Archives staff, largely from 1997 onward.
- Other: 1950 - 2005
- Majority of material found within 1960 - 1979
Conditions Governing Access
The Hawaiʻi Congressional Papers Collection is accessible in the University Archives and Manuscripts Department's John Troup Moir, Jr., and Gertrude M.F. Moir Archives Reading Room. For more information, please contact the Congressional Papers Archivist by email: email@example.com, or phone: 808-956-6047.
Literary Rights Notice
98 Linear Feet
Thomas P. Gill (1922- ) was a member of Congress from Hawaii to the U.S. House of Representatives (1963-1964). His political career before and after Congress included serving in the Hawaii Territorial Legislature (1958-1959), the Hawaii State Legislature (1959-1962), the Hawaii Office of Economic Opportunity (1965-1966) and the office of Lt. Governor of Hawaii (1966-1970). He was deeply involved in local and national Democratic Party politics whether in or out of office.
Declining an officer rank, Gill served in World War II as an enlisted soldier in the 24th Infantry Division in New Guinea and the Philippines and was awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart. His private law practice was a platform for lifelong advocacy of social, political, economic and environmental justice, the effects of which are still being felt in Hawaii. He married Lois Hanawalt in 1947 and has six children—Thomas (“Tony”), Andrea, Eric, Ivan, Timothy, and Gary.
The bulk of the collection is from Gill’s two years in Congress and in the Lt. Governor’s office. It includes correspondence, reports, photographs, audiovisual items and memorabilia. It is strong in material documenting his enthusiastic political life and on his concerns about nuclear power; the environment; land development, especially on the Big Island; and the high cost of living in Hawaii, principally for food and housing.
Born in Honolulu on April 21, 1922, Thomas Ponce Gill served just one term in the U.S. House of Representatives—but his long career as an elected official, civil servant and private attorney advocating social, political, economic and environmental reform places him in the forefront of those most responsible for creating the Hawaii we know today.
Gill’s father, an architect, moved to Hawaii in 1896, but unlike most members of his ethnicity and class, he sent his son to the Territorial public schools—Lincoln Elementary, Roosevelt High and the University of Hawaii—encouraging an independent social consciousness that has been one of the hallmarks of Gill’s political life. The Territorial newspapers first mention Tom Gill in 1945, when Tech Sgt. Gill, newly returned from the 24th Infantry campaigns in New Guinea and the Philippines (where he earned a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart), is quoted as remarking, “The doughboys don’t get the same publicity as the fliers and some of the others. All they generally get is a row of white crosses.” This early interview is indicative of some of the qualities that sustained Gill throughout his career: a concern for equity and the underdog expressed in a concise, telling phrase. In the 1960s, when he was widely regarded as the most articulate and literate Hawaii politician, Gill’s appearance, youth, war record—and seemingly effortless ability to produce an apt phrase—drew comparisons with John Fitzgerald Kennedy. But in 1946, when the returning veteran first expressed an interest in politics, it was by approaching Republican Party chairman Roy Vitousek. Told “the Republican Party didn’t need anybody,” Gill went to California to attend the University of California School of Law.
Returning to Hawaii in 1951, the young attorney already possessed a strong sense of independence and self-assurance, strikingly revealed in an anecdote told by longtime Democratic Party organizer Dan Aoki, who approached Gill in 1952 about joining the group John Burns was assembling in his campaign to revitalize the Democratic Party. “Join you guys … ,” Gill replied, “how about you guys joining me?” Although clearly not a member of Burns’ inner circle, Gill served as the Oahu County Democratic campaign chair for the elections of 1952 and 1954, when the “Democratic Revolution” ended decades of Republican political control in the Territory. Gill was also chair of the Oahu County Democratic Committee from 1954 to 1958. In the mid-1950s, while serving as Territorial Senate council and administrative aide to the Speaker of the House, he played a key role in drafting social, economic and environmental legislation considered so liberal that Republican governor Sam King vetoed 71 out of some 80 or 90 pieces of legislation—leading to King’s defeat in the next election.
Gill was first elected to office as 15th District representative to the 30th Territorial Legislature, and in 1959 was elected to the first State of Hawaii Legislature, where he served as majority floor leader. Then in 1962 Gill was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, Hawaii’s last at-large representative before the state was divided into two congressional districts. Choosing not to run for re-election in 1964, Gill instead unsuccessfully challenged Hiram Fong for a Senate seat. Gov. John Burns then appointed Gill director of the Hawaii Office of Economic Opportunity, where he was able to influence social and economic policy.
Although not the candidate preferred by Burns, and despite opposition from both business, who distrusted Gill’s liberalism, and from labor—and in particular the ILWU—who distrusted Gill’s independence, he was elected Lieutenant Governor in 1966. Following losing campaigns for governor in 1970 and 1974, Gill resumed the practice of law.
Widely recognized throughout his career for his intellectual energy and acumen, expressed with a directness and cogency often perceived as impatience and arrogance, Gill’s independence caused his political career to founder often in controversy. But his legacy as a progressive and tireless worker for a more just, open and sustainable society continues to inspire subsequent generations—including Gary Gill, politician, activist and youngest of the six Gill children, who once described his father as a “a reform-minded person who always attempted to represent the interests of labor and the working people, and to struggle for social and economic justice.”
Compiled by Stan Schab,
Center for Biographical Research,
University of Hawaii at Manoa,
Jan. 13, 2003
- 1922 Apr 21
- Born in Honolulu, son of Thomas Gill (architect) and Lorin Tarr Gill
- Graduated from Roosevelt High School, Honolulu
- Attended University of Hawaii
- 1941 Dec-1942 Oct
- Volunteered for Hawaii Territorial Guard
- 1942 Nov-1945 Nov
- Enlisted as a private in the 24th Infantry Division
- Fought in New Guinea, Phillipines
- Awarded Bronze Star, Purple Heart
- Married Lois Hanawalt whom he met at UC Berkeley, in Honolulu; children Thomas ("Tony"), Andrea, Eric, Ivan, Timothy, and Gary
- Graduated with B.A., University of California at Berkeley
- Member, American Veterans Committee
- Graduated, University of California Law School
- Admitted to Hawaii Bar, began Honolulu law practice
- Attorney for Unity House unions and founded a labor-oriented law firm. Paul Kokubun was first law partner, then Herman Doi and Alvin Shinn
- 1952, 1954
- Chairman, Oahu County Democratic Campaign Committee
- Chairman, Oahu County Democratic Committee Labor law practice
- Attorney for Senate, Hawaii Territorial Legislature, regular session
- Administrative Assistant to Speaker of the House (Vince Esposito), Hawaii Territorial Legislature, regular and special sessions
- Elected Representative to 30th Territorial Legislature, 15th District
- Elected Representative to the first State Legislature Democratic Majority Leader, State Legislature
- Delegate to Democratic National Convention
- Authorized land Use Law, the first statewide zoning law in the nation
- Elected to U.S. House of Representatives, 88th Congress
- Appointed to Interior Committee and its Territorial/Insular, Indian Affairs, and Irrigation subcommittees
- Appointed to Education & Labor Committees and two of its subcommittees dealing with wage-hour laws, migrant workers, fair employment practices, vocational education, and the youth corps
- Admitted to the bar of the U.S. Supreme Court
- Delegate to National Democratic Convention; read Pledge of Allegiance at opening ceremony
- Lost to Hiram Fong in U.S. Senate election
- Director, Hawaii Office of Economic Opportunity; appointed by Gov. John Burns to launch the new agency
- Elected Lt. Governor, Hawaii
- Lost primary election for Governor to John Burns
- Resumed law practice
- Continued law labor practice
- Active in Democratic Party politics
- Hawaii elder statesmen for political, social, and economic issues
Immediate Source of Acquisition
- Thomas P. Gill Papers
- Ellen Chapman, revised by Rachael Bussert
- Description rules
- Language of description
- Thomas Gill UH Fund
- 2/26/2015: Formatting revisions were made to series descriptions and series arrangement notes.
Part of the University of Hawaii at Manoa Libraries Repository