“’Who is this A. Richards?’”
“The players themselves, as well as others who usually know tennis players and tennis form as intimately as the average small boy knows the record of Babe Ruth, were asking each other the question at the clubhouse during the progress of this astonishing match.”
Richards, an unknown, beat favorite Watson Washburn in two straight sets and won the championship at the New York Tennis Club Tournament. (HMCS)
“Atherton Richards was the youth who thus confounded the prophets and tore the dope and the traditions into things of shreds and patches.” (NY Times, June 22, 1921)
He was called AR or Atherton Richards; however his full name was Joseph Atherton Richards. (Giles)
Richards was born in the Islands on September 29, 1894 (he died in 1974.) His father, Theodore Richards, came to Hawaiʻi in 1888 to become teacher of the first class to graduate at the Kamehameha Schools and, in 1894, principal of the Kamehameha Schools for five years. Atherton’s paternal grandfather was Joseph H Richards.
Theodore Richards founded Kokokahi on the windward side of Oʻahu (now a YWCA facility,) which means “of one blood”, which he meant as a place for people of different races to live together as people of one blood. (Star-Advertiser)
Theodore Richards married Mary Cushing Atherton, daughter of Juliette Cooke Atherton and Joseph Ballard Atherton. Joseph Atherton’ Richards maternal great grandparents were missionaries Amos Starr and Juliette Montague Cooke (Amos Starr Cooke and Samuel Northrup Castle formed Castle and Cooke.)
After graduating from Wesleyan University in 1915 (where he was captain of the tennis team,) Atherton served as a First Lieutenant in the US Army in 1917 and as a Lieutenant Colonel in 1942. (HICattle)
During WWII, Richards was one of the top officials serving under General William J “Wild Bill” Donovan, then-chief of the CIA’s Office of Strategic Services (OSS.)
Richards was tasked in the “Economics Branch” and was authorized to conduct research bearing on “the economic problems of the United States during and following the termination of the war emergency”. They also discussed “the possibilities of economic warfare organization.” (CIA)
In his business career, Richards served as an officer or director of Castle and Cooke Co, Hawaiian Pineapple Company, Bank of Hawaii, Ewa Plantation Co, Hawaiian Electric Co, and was a Kamehameha Schools, Bishop Estate (KSBE) trustee (1952-1974.)
In 1931, Hawaiian Pineapple accounted for about 38% of the Islands’ production (measured by cases of pineapples produced.) However, the Great Depression was on and Hawaiian Pineapple was facing bankruptcy.
In October 1932, Hawaiian Pineapple (what we call Dole) was reorganized to avoid catastrophe and founder James Dole was removed from management and Atherton Richards replaced him as general manager. (Cooper & Daws)
In late-1939, Richards tried to establish a new pineapple plantation on Molokai, in order to reduce their dependency on Waialua Agricultural Co, but the Molokai plantation plan was rejected by the board the next year. Richards left in 1941. (Hawkins)
As Bishop Estate trustee, Richards planted the idea of development of KSBE’s East Oʻahu property with Henry J Kaiser. They took a drive out to Kuapa Pond where Richards challenged Kaiser to make the development a success.
Kaiser accepted and proposed a $350-million dream city of 11,000 single family homes. Initially dubbed ‘Kaiser’s Folly,’ Hawaiʻi Kai became a success for Kaiser and Bishop Estate. (Hawaii Business)
Another lasting legacy of Richards is Kahua Ranch in Kohala, Hawaii Island, which he formed with Ronald Von Holt in 1928. The pair pooled their money and bought the property from Frank Woods.
Richards’ nephew, Herbert Montague “Monty” Richards, Jr, carries on his legacy today as Manager of Kahua Ranch. (Pono Von Holt runs the adjoining Ponoholo Ranch that had been split off from the original holdings.)