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Judge Samuel Pailthorpe King dies of head injury at 94

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Samuel P. King

Samuel P. King, a federal judge for nearly four decades, died this afternoon at Kuakini Medical Center after falling and suffering a head injury.

King, 94, one of Hawaii’s most highly respected judges, was one of the authors of the Broken Trust essay that led to reforms at the Bishop Estate, now known as Kamehameha Schools.

"We feel so fortunate to have gotten a chance to share our lives with mom and dad all these years," his daughter, Louise King Lanzilotti, said. "We’re so lucky. He was a great role model for us."

King was appointed U.S. District judge here in 1972. 

Samuel Pailthorpe King was born in China. He was part-Hawaiian, spoke Japanese fluently and was a descendant of the first white man to settle in Hawaii. He once tried to unseat Democratic Gov. John Burns.

In the heat of the controversy over Bishop Estate the outspoken King remained unfazed by criticism.

"I know one thing," he said in an interview at the time. "Every judge has an obligation: If you see something wrong in the community, you speak out against it."

His father, Samuel Wilder King, was active in the Republican Party and appointed the first part-Hawaiian governor by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1953. He also served as a Bishop Estate trustee from 1957 to 1959.

Born in Hankow, China, where his father was stationed in the Navy, the young King lost his left eye in a childhood accident. He excelled at Punahou School and attended Japanese language school — a rarity for a Caucasian, part-Hawaiian lad. He became Punahou’s student body president and a champion orator, participating in national finals competition in Washington, D.C.

King graduated cum laude from Yale Law School. He joined the Navy during World War II and served as a military Japanese interpreter.

He later followed in his father’s footsteps, taking active part in local Republican politics. In 1956 he was appointed a territorial district court magistrate. With statehood in 1959, Hawaii’s first elected Republican governor, William Quinn, elevated King to a circuit court judgeship.

King became one of the first judges for Hawaii’s progressive Family Court in the 1960s, earning the unofficial title "Father of the Family Court."

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