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Ferd's Words

Unassuming Richardson really was a typical Rainbow fan

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For one of the milestone attendance marks during the 1990s at what was then known as Rainbow Stadium, the University of Hawaii was prepared to roll out the red carpet to celebrate the occasion.

There was an official welcoming committee and an assortment of gifts, all to honor what athletic department officials figured would be their symbolic average Rainbow baseball fan.

But as they counted down the arriving fans it suddenly dawned on them that unless somebody suddenly cut in front of him at the turnstile, that the designated lucky fan was hardly going to be their average Joe.

It was, instead, the retired chief justice of the Hawaii Supreme Court, William S. Richardson, for whom the law school was named.

Still, in the end, it was altogether fitting recognition because Richardson, for all his fame, was a regular fan, a humble man with no pretensions or expectations of entitlement.

It was one of the endearing qualities of the man who died Monday at age 90 and had been a familiar face at men’s basketball games especially but also attended baseball, volleyball, football events.

"He was a fan of all the sports; you’d see him at a lot of events," recalls former men’s basketball coach Riley Wallace.

A record-setting swimmer and team captain during his days at UH, Richardson, in retirement, frequently followed the school’s teams even on the road. Once, at a football game, a Colorado State administrator struck up a conversation without knowing Richardson’s identity.

Afterward, the official noted, "he knows a lot about your team, whose grandfather is he?" The official was floored when it was explained that Richardson was a former chief justice, lieutenant governor and head of the Democratic Party in Hawaii.

"But, then, that’s the kind of a guy he was, really, pleasant, down to earth," recalls sportscaster Don Robbs, who had many conversations with him on the road.

Unlike many of importance from other realms who felt compelled to strut their status around athletics, Richardson never did. Gentlemanly and low key, he preferred to be just be "another Rainbow fan," as he liked to put it.

He didn’t drop names or blow his own horn. Nor did he attempt to throw what would have been his considerable influence around. He didn’t feel the necessity to try and remake UH athletics to his blueprint or tell others how to do their jobs. Something of a rarity among some of the rich and powerful. "He was a man of the people," said retired judge Jim Burns.

Known around UH as "CJ" (for Chief Justice), "He was a cool guy who just liked being around UH athletics and being on campus," athletic director Jim Donovan said. "He was always very supportive and very positive. He was an upbeat guy who always had a smile on his face and wanted the best for the school in academics and athletics."

With his passing, UH lost a longtime friend and fan. But, then, he hardly needed a special, milestone occasion to certify him as one-in-a-million or more.

Reach Ferd Lewis at flewis@staradvertiser.com.

 

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