Thomas Gill

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Thomas Ponce Gill, or Tom Gill as he is popularly known, (b. April 21,1922, Honolulu - d. June 3, 2009), is a giant in Hawai'i liberal politics. "Gill's father had come to Hawaii shortly after it was annexed to the United States and worked as an architect, designing many of the major buildings in early downtown Honolulu. Gill senior helped instill a philosophy of equality and caring for the underdog to his son." [1] Gill was schooled in Hawai'i's public school system, attending Lincoln Elementary, and graduating from the Roosevelt High School in 1940. Gill attended the University of Hawaii in 1940 and 1941.

Gill served in the Hawaii Territorial Guard before volunteering for service in the 24th Infantry Division during WWII. Gill fought in New Guinea and in the Philippines and was discharged in November 1945 as a Tech Sgt. Gill had earned a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart for his service. After the war, Gill earned his law degree from University of California School of Law in 1951. Gill was admitted to the bar and started law practice in Honolulu the same year.

"Gill served as the Oahu County Democratic campaign chair for the elections of 1952 and 1954, when the "Democratic Revolution" ended decades of Republican political control in the Territory of Hawai'i. Gill also chaired the Oahu County Democratic Committee from 1954 to 1958. In the mid-1950s, while serving as Territorial Senate council and administrative aide to the Speaker of the House, he played a key role in drafting social, economic and environmental legislation considered so liberal that Republican governor Sam King vetoed 71 out of some 80 or 90 pieces of legislation--leading to King's defeat in the next election." [2]

Gill served as Fifteenth District representative to the Thirtieth Territorial Legislature. Gill elected to the first Hawaii State Legislature served as its majority floor leader from 1959 to 1962. Much of the state's land-use laws and emphasis on environmental regulation are due to Gill's efforts in the state Legislature.

In 1962, Gill was elected to the United States House of Representatives in the Eighty-eighth Congress from 1963 to 1965, Hawaii's last at-large representative before the state was divided into two congressional districts.

In the US House, Gill was appointed floor manager for the Civil Rights Bill, it was his job to move the bill through the House of Representatives.

"Early in 1963, Gill was tasked with writing a portion of the Civil Rights Bill. Title VI banned organizations or programs receiving federal funds from discriminating on the basis of race. The opening section of Title VI reads: "No person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance." In Hawaii, it was known as the Gill Bill." [3]

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed in no small part by the hard work and perseverance of Tom Gill.

In 1964, Gill unsuccessfully challenged Hiram Fong for a Senate seat. Gov. John A. Burns then appointed Gill director of the Hawaii Office of Economic Opportunity.

In 1966, Gill was elected Lieutenant Governor under Gov. John A. Burns. Following losing campaigns for governor, against Burns in 1970 and George R. Ariyoshi in 1974, Gill resumed the practice of law.

In 1995, Gill was appointed the chairman of the eleven member (eventually seven member), Commission on Sexual Orientation and the Law. Gill was part of the 5-2 Commission majority that recommended that same-sex couples be allowed to marry.

In 1998, because of the Commission's stance, Gill was deemed "too liberal" to head the Democratic Party in Hawaii. Walter Heen, a moderate Democrat, was elected instead to head the Party.

Gill has six children several of whom are involved in Hawai'i politics notably former Honolulu City Councilmember Gary Gill, Tony Gill, a labor lawyer and vice chair of the Honolulu County Democratic Party and Eric Gill, financial secretary-treasurer of Local 5 of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Union.

[1] Borreca, Richard. Legislator cared about environment Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 10-06-99.

[2] About Tom Gill (1922-), compiled by Stan Schab, from The Thomas P.Gill Papers of the University of Hawai'i Archives.

[3] Joyner, Marsha. Simple justice -- A one-term Hawaii congressman helped craft and pass the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act. Honolulu Star-Bulletin, July 1, 2004.

External Links

  • GILL, Thomas Ponce, 1922- (Biographical Directory of the United States Congress)
  • About Tom Gill (The Thomas P. Gill Papers of the University of Hawaii Archives)
  • ACLU Announces Tom Gill Scholar For Public High School Students (ACLU of Hawaii)
  • State of Hawaii -- Report of the Commission on Sexual Orientation and the Law (State of Hawaii)
  • Yuen, Mike. Same-sex issue affects Democrat vote -- Some party members fear the controversy will ignite if Gill runs for chairman Honolulu Star-Bulletin, March 3, 1998.
  • Yuen, Mike. Democrats elect moderate Heen to be new party chairman Honolulu Star-Bulletin, May 25, 1998.
  • Heen named Democratic Party chairman in landslide victory Honolulu Star-Bulletin, May 28, 1998.
  • Borreca, Richard. Legislator cared about environment Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 10-06-99.
  • Griffin, John. Tom Gill: A key figure in social revolution of '50s, early '60s Honolulu Advertiser, October 19, 2003.
  • Boylan, Dan. What We Need is Another Tom Gill MidWeek, April 12, 2006.
  • EDITORIAL: Maverick Gill leaves social justice legacy Honolulu Star-Bulletin, June 5, 2009.
  • Pang, Gordon Y.K. Tom Gill, 87, was wild card of politics -- Pivotal figure in state's Democratic revolution of 1954 Honolulu Advertiser, June 4, 2009.

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