Win­ning OHA suit was ‘small part’ of rancher’s life

Honolulu Star-Advertiser - - LOCAL & BUSINESS - By Dan Nakaso dnakaso@starad­ver­

Harold “Freddy” Rice — a Hawaii is­land rancher, com­mer­cial fish­er­men and fifth-gen­er­a­tion scion of a mis­sion­ary fam­ily who won a U.S. Supreme Court de­ci­sion over­turn­ing Hawai­ians-only vot­ing in Of­fice of Hawai­ian Af­fairs elec­tions — has died of a stroke. He was 83. Af­ter be­ing barred from vot­ing in an OHA elec­tion in 1996, Rice pre­vailed be­fore the U.S. Supreme Court in a 7-2 de­ci­sion in 2000 based on ar­gu­ments that the 15th Amend­ment pro­hibits fed­eral and state gov­ern­ments from deny­ing a cit­i­zen the right to vote based on “race, color, or pre­vi­ous con­di­tion of servi­tude.” Fol­low­ing the Supreme Court rul­ing, Rice told the Honolulu Star-Bul­letin, “To me, this is all about pro­tect­ing the Con­sti­tu­tion and ev­ery­one’s right to vote.” The case was backed, in part, by the Cam­paign for a Color-Blind Amer­ica, a non­profit op­posed to af­fir­ma­tive ac­tion.

Rice’s in­volve­ment in Rice v. Cayetano sur­prised his long­time friend, Hawaii is­land vet­eri­nar­ian Dr. Billy Ber­gin, a for­mer Univer­sity of Hawaii re­gent and founder of the Pan­iolo Preser­va­tion So­ci­ety.

“It was out of char­ac­ter for him to butt his nose into Hawai­ian af­fairs,” Ber­gin said. “He never got in­volved in the ma­jor con­tro­ver­sies, so when the word came out that he was go­ing to step forth and agree to chal­lenge the is­sue by at­tempt­ing to vote, the gen­eral com­mu­nity was won­der­ing why in the hell he wanted to get in­volved. … His feel­ing was the quicker that this gets cleared up, the quicker OHA can move for­ward to the ben­e­fit of Hawai­ians. Un­for­tu­nately, he never pub­licly made that state­ment, which would have been to his ad­van­tage.” Rice died Jan. 5. One of his daugh­ters, Morag Rice Mi­randa, said she did not want her fa­ther’s in­volve­ment in Rice v. Cayetano to over­shadow his many ac­com­plish­ments as a fish­er­man and cat­tle­man.

“My fa­ther did what he felt was right,” Mi­randa said. “It’s huge in Hawaii, but it’s only one small part of his life. The depth and value of his life was in the re­la­tion­ships and things he did as a fish­er­man and rancher, not Rice v. Cayetano. … His pas­sions were soil and ranch­ing and wa­ter sys­tems and he left ev­ery ranch im­proved than when he found it. He put in boat ramps for lo­cal fish­ing com­mu­ni­ties so they could launch from South Kona. He helped peo­ple be­cause it was right. He saw great­ness in peo­ple.”

For­mer OHA chair­man and state Sen. Clay­ton Hee had known Rice from their cat­tle rop­ing days when they found them­selves on op­po­site sides of Rice v. Cayetano. Hee, as OHA chair­man, was in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., wait­ing for the Supreme Court’s de­ci­sion when Rice woke him up with a 4:30 a.m. phone call.

“He didn’t call me to stick it in my ribs,” Hee said. “He called me friend-to-friend … not as an en­emy. He said, ‘I just want to let you know I got word that I won.’ I said, ‘Freddy, you and I are good friends, many years. I just don’t know if I have it in me

to con­grat­u­late you.’ But Freddy was right. Tech­ni­cally he won, but quite frankly every­body won. The Con­sti­tu­tion pre­vailed and OHA is bet­ter for it. The process by which ev­ery­one is af­forded that priv­i­lege (to vote for OHA elec­tions) has made the of­fice stronger con­sti­tu­tion­ally. It never af­fected our friend­ship.”

But Rice could be a fierce com­peti­tor.

In the early 1990s, Hee or­ga­nized a team rop­ing com­pe­ti­tion at Kualoa Ranch that of­fered a truck as the top prize. One of Rice’s grand­sons was lead­ing the com­pe­ti­tion when it was Rice’s turn to rope, Hee re­mem­bered. “Freddy could have slacked up and let his grand­son win the truck,” Hee said. “Nah, nah. That’s not Freddy.”

But his horse took a tum­ble and Rice ended up with a com­pound frac­ture of the leg. Rice was well in his 60s at the time, Hee said. “That was Freddy,” Hee said. “He was an ath­lete men­tally and he was an ath­lete phys­i­cally. If some­body told me he was rop­ing last year, I wouldn’t blink an eye.”

Rice was born on Maui on Sept. 9, 1935. He was the great-grand­son of Wil­liam Hyde Rice, a mis­sion­ary to Kauai who was ap­pointed Kauai’s gov­er­nor by Queen Lili‘uokalani.

Freddy Rice’s grand­fa­ther, Harold Water­house “Pop” Rice, was a mem­ber of the ter­ri­to­rial Se­nate and a Maui busi­ness­man. Freddy Rice’s fa­ther, Harold Fred­er­ick “Oskie” Rice, owned the 18,000-acre Kaonoulu Ranch on the slopes of Haleakala. Freddy Rice at­tended Pu­na­hou School and went on to the New Mex­ico Mil­i­tary In­sti­tute and Cor­nell Univer­sity be­fore he joined the Army and be­came a lieu­tenant.

Af­ter leav­ing the Army, Rice and his first wife, Sally, moved to Maui, where Rice worked as an as­sis­tant to the ranch man­ager at Hawai­ian Com­mer­cial & Sugar Co. He later be­came man­ager of Kahuku Ranch on Hawaii is­land.

In 1976, he and Sally di­vorced and in 1983, Rice’s ranch went broke, lead­ing him to try com­mer­cial fish­ing. By 1995, Rice was back rais­ing cat­tle in Waimea and he met his sec­ond wife, Gail. A year later Rice was barred from vot­ing in an OHA elec­tion and he went on to sue in U.S. Dis­trict Court. Along the way, he worked to form the Pan­iolo Preser­va­tion So­ci­ety and the Hawaii Rodeo Cow­boys As­so­ci­a­tion, and also helped pub­lish a rule book that Ber­gin said is still “the bi­ble” over rop­ing com­pe­ti­tions that are unique in Hawaii.

Rice ad­vo­cated for hu­mane treat­ment of rodeo an­i­mals and was “a noted polo player,” Ber­gin said. Re­search that Rice and Sally did on graz­ing, fer­til­iz­ers and dif­fer­ent types of cat­tle grass was pub­lished by the Univer­sity of Hawaii and helped ranch­ers in­crease the amount of beef they could raise per acre, Ber­gin said.

As a fish­er­man, Rice also won sev­eral Hawaii is­land bill­fish tour­na­ments, Ber­gin said.

Rice is sur­vived by wife Gail Rice; chil­dren F. McGrew Rice, Bon­nie F. Rice, Morag Rice Mi­randa, Sheena W. Gol­ish and Li­lah A. El­lis; hanai daugh­ter Si­enna Rodgers; and for­mer wife Sally H. Rice. Pub­lic grave­side ser­vices are sched­uled for 4 to 5 p.m. Feb. 9 at the Makawao Ceme­tery on Maui. A cel­e­bra­tion of life is sched­uled for 4 p.m. Feb. 16 at the Pukalani Sta­bles in Waimea.


Harold “Freddy” Rice leaves the U.S. Supreme Court af­ter lis­ten­ing to ar­gu­ments in a case chal­leng­ing a state law giv­ing Hawai­ians spe­cial race-based vot­ing priv­i­leges. Rice died Jan. 5 at the age of 83.


Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.