He reportedly came to Hawaiʻi and jumped a whaling ship, and stayed. (Maui Council)
“Doc Hill (William Hardy Hill) was kind of the maverick businessman in Hilo … (he) eventually, became probably the most influential businessman on this island.” (Henderson)
“Doc” acquired his moniker for selling eyeglasses, after he came to the Big Island in 1913; he opened the Hill Optical Co in the Young Kwong Hoy building in 1917 (between what is now the Kress bldg. & Basically Books.)
License No. 1 under the 1917 legislation to Regulate the Practice of Optometry was granted to Hill; he was a charter member of the Optometry Board of Examiners.
“He had some experience in optics from a job in a jewelry store back on the Mainland, so when he noticed a display of 40-cent eyeglasses in a Chinese store he persuaded the proprietor to let him have four dozen pair on credit. These he peddled to aging Orientals in the plantation camps for $4, on easy payments.” (Star Bulletin, June 6, 1970; Schmitt)
Although the published biographical sketches of Hill mention only a grammar school or high school education, he reportedly possessed a Doctor of Optics degree from Northern Illinois College of Ophthalmology and Otology. (Schmitt)
Doc added his jewelry business in 1919, and both his optical and jewelry businesses were among the largest in the Territory. When he was elected to our Territorial House of Representatives in 1928, Doc sold his optical and jewelry businesses to his bookkeeper, Freiderich Wilheim “Fritz” Koehnen. (Narimatsu)
“(O)nce you become associated with Doc Hill, you get very much involved with politics.” (Henderson) Hill was a member of Hawaiʻi territorial house and senate (he was senate president 1932-1959;) delegate to Republican National Convention from Hawaii Territory, 1944; member of Hawaii state senate, 1959-67.
Sometimes irascible, oft times flamboyant, but always keenly analytical and astute in his approach to the problems of the day. Senator Hill contributed greatly to the work of the legislature and to the development of the 50th State. (Congressman Matsunaga)
After President Dwight D Eisenhower signed the proclamation welcoming Hawai‘i as the 50th state of the union on August 21, 1959, the First Legislature of the State of Hawai‘i convened on August 31, 1959, in accordance with the Hawai‘i State Constitution.
During this 45-day First Special Session of 1959, the Senate elected Senator William H. Hill of the first senatorial district as Senate President. Senator Hill stated in his Opening Day remarks:
“This session of the Legislature is the most important that Hawai‘i has ever had and without a doubt will be the most important that will ever be known in Hawai‘i because in this session the die will be cast for future sessions.”
“Doc could go on telling you stories forever. (He’d say, ‘You gotta do things when you can, not when you can’t.’ In other words, if there’s a deal to be made or something that you want done, you do it when you can, and that means right now”. (Henderson)
‘Little Doc,’ his talking mynah bird joined him “(e)very year until the bird died In 1965, ‘Little Doc’ was brought from Hilo by his master to alt caged outside of the Senator’s ʻIolani Palace office – whistling at the wahines and saying ‘Vote for Doc Hill’ in true campaign style.”
Perhaps the ceremonial highlight of Doc’s Senate career came in 1967, when he appeared during one of the extended days of the session dressed in a kimono.
“Mr. President,” he said. “I have been humiliated, insulted and shunned the past few days and it’s all your fault. Last Thursday, Mr. President, I arose on this floor to tell you of rumors that the Senate might not adjourn as scheduled the next day.”
“I told you that my wife was going back home to Hilo In a few hours and wanted to know how many shirts she should leave for me In Honolulu. And you told me – before this body – that she should leave only one shirt.”
“Along about Saturday, I began to notice that when I would approach a group of senators I thought were my friends, they would scatter or else get upwind of me. I wondered what was wrong. Had I voted wrong on one of their pet measures?”
If ever the term Elder Statesman fit a man. It fit Doc. After many years in the inner circle of power In Hawaii government, age and the Democratic ascendancy In the Senate moved him back into the ranks during the late 1960s.
But really, Doc Hill never took a back seat to anyone in speaking his piece on the Senate floor. And age which slowed his step hasn’t yet worked its way up to the quick mind beneath that Caesar-like haircut. (Congressman Matsunaga)
It’s well known that Senator WH ‘Doc’ Hill of Hilo is a capitalist, period. (Honolulu Record, December 6, 1956)
“(Doc Hill) eventually got control of, at that time, the Hilo Electric Light Company (later known as Hawai’i Electric Light Co, (and the) General Motors dealership. … (He also had) Wailoa Motors, which operated a major tire-recapping facility that dealt mainly with the sugar plantations cane haul trucking tire needs”.
We had nine theaters around the island … (Hilo Theatres, Ltd) … I might say the theater business was a very good business before television arrived.” (Henderson)
He organized ‘Realty,’ a holding company in 1926; it was parent company to several of his holdings. (Realty was later renamed Realty Investment Co, Ltd.)
He also had “Hilo Thrift and Loan (Hilo Finance and Thrift Co., Ltd,) that eventually became what is known as Realty Finance. Doc was involved in “all kinds” of real estate ventures (land; built and bought businesses; developments, etc.)
From 1954 to 1973, Big Island developers, including Realty Investment Co Ltd, won permission to chop up thousands of acres in Lower Puna and sell them off into thousands of individual lots. (Dayton) Most of the subdivisions were created prior to the adoption of the Zoning Code in 1967. (Puna CDP)
Mainland marketing pieces for Puna subdivisions noted, “Your Future Is Here! If you’ve ever wanted to own property in Hawaii, it pays you to act now. Combine investment with pleasure in the 50th State of the Union.”
“William H Hill, says in his (Hilo Electric Report) that ‘the vast water supply, temperate climate and other natural resources, many still untapped, make the Big Island the Territory’s most valuable land area for economic development and location of new industry’.” (Salt Lake Tribune, April 10, 1960)
Hill and his wife Ouida and large homes in Hilo and Kona, and has hosted notable visitors for decades’ John Wayne and Pilar Palette were married on the grounds of his Keauhou Bay estate on November 1, 1954. ‘Doc’ Hill died in 1970.
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