James Walker Austin (1829-1895) was born in Charlestown, Massachusetts, January 8, 1829, son of William Austin (1778- 1841) and Lucy Jones (1802-1853).
“My father died in my boyhood (in Charlestown, June 27, 1841), and now, after nearly fifty years, his pleasant smile, his kind heart, and the light of his countenance are still living memories.” (James Walker Austin)
James was prepared for college in the schools of Charlestown and at the Chauncy Hall School, Boston, and was graduated from Harvard College in 1849, and from the Law School two years later, and was admitted to the Suffolk Bar in 1851.
He went in 1851 to California, and thence to the Hawaiian Islands. He was attracted by the beauty and fertility of the islands, and he determined to settle there.
Austin arrived in Hawaii and was quickly thereafter enlisted by Kamehameha III for his legal services. He served the monarchy in that capacity through the reigns of Kamehameha III, Kamehameha IV and Kamehameha V.
On July 18, 1857, he married Ariana Elizabeth Smith Sleeper (1829-1911) who was the daughter of John Sherborn Sleeper (1794-1878) and Mary Folsom Noble (1798-1885). They were the parents of five children.
He rose rapidly in the public esteem, and was soon chosen to places of trust and honor. In rapid succession he was made District Attorney, Member of Parliament, Speaker of the House, and a Justice of the Supreme Court.
He was also placed on two important Commissions, — one for revising the Civil Code, the other for revising the Criminal Code of the Kingdom. (Edes; Colonial Society of MA, 1895)
In honor of his work for Kamehameha V, James Walker Austin was given the land upon which Kapualei Ranch sits on July 10, 1868. (Kapualei Ranch)
He was admitted to the Bar in that country, and was appointed district attorney. He was elected to the Hawaiian Parliament, and reelected for three sessions. He was speaker of the House one session.
He was the guardian a number of years, of Lunalilo, heir to the throne. “Prince Bill had many fine qualities. In spite of his many fine qualities he was overcome by one weakness. He became addicted to liquor.”
“In 1858 Kanaʻina, out of love and concern for his son, petitioned the court to appoint guardians for him. Prince Bill agreed to this idea even though he was twenty-three years old. So the court appointed his father and two others, Dr. Richard Armstrong and James W Austin, as guardians.” (Galuteria)
In 1868 Austin was appointed judge of the Supreme Court by a special act of the Legislature, and he was chosen to revise the criminal code of the islands, in connection with two other judges of the Supreme Court.
He had been a member of the commission to revise the civil code two years before. These codes were modeled on those of the State of Massachusetts.
He returned to the United States in 1872 for the education of his children. The Austins made 9 Arlington in Boston their home. Their children lived with them: Herbert Austin, who would become an iron and steel dealer; Walter Austin, who would become an attorney and author; William Francis Austin; and Edith Austin.
“Judge Austin was a man of strong character, and of many accomplishments. His integrity was unimpeachable. He had a large circle of friends at the islands, where he had much to do in building up a vigorous and well-ordered community.”
“He was highly esteemed for his many noble qualities. His rugged honesty of opinion and positive ideas were sometimes veiled by his gentle manner; but they never lacked vigorous expression upon all proper occasions, and he always had the courage of his convictions.”
“Frankness, purity of mind and of heart, loyalty to every duty and to friends, and sincerity were marked traits of his character. His sympathies were as tender and quick as a woman’s. Censoriousness had no place in his fine nature; and when he could not approve the actions of others, he cultivated that silence which is golden.”
“He was as generous in his judgments of others as in his gifts to many worthy objects; and in all the relations of life he furnished an example deserving emulation.” (Edes; Colonial Society of MA, 1895)
Austin went to Europe the last year of his life, with his wife and daughter, and they were with him at the time of his death. He died in Southampton, England, October 15, 1895. (New England Historic Genealogical Society)
“In every relation of his long and active life he was an example to be imitated and followed. Sincerity, truthfulness, and frankness spoke in every accent of his voice, in the pressure of his hand, in his manly and gentle spirit.”
“His affections, when once placed, were deep and lasting. His charity of thought and feeling and act seemed instinctive, but it rested on solid and enduring principles.”
“No one who knew him intimately in public or in social life could ever doubt that he was a man of positive opinions, or that he had any hesitancy, when occasion required, in expressing them; but he never unduly pressed his own views, and was eminently tolerant of the opinions, and even the prejudices, of his associates.”
“No man loathed selfishness, deceit, or treachery more than he; but while he condemned the act he pitied the offender. He avoided controversy, and strove to be a peace-maker.”
“After more than twenty years of acquaintanceship – for many years seeing him almost daily – the writer of these lines does not recall an instance of hearing Judge Austin utter a censorious remark upon any man or woman.”
“And it is said that this temper and manner characterized him through his entire career, – in his boyhood days, at the university, at the bar, on the bench, and in all the various associations of his life, – public, social, and domestic.”
“But who can adequately express in words the prompt and unfailing sympathy he manifested for every form of woe and suffering? To many hearts surcharged with sorrow his ready and tender ministries have been a source of hope and courage, of comfort and of strength.
“He was, indeed, a rare man, and the world is poorer now that he has left us.” (Hoyt; New England Historic Genealogical Society)