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Check Six – 1959: Hawaii becomes the 50th State

August 15, 2014

Admissions Day is a state holiday that celebrates the day President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the proclamation welcoming Hawai‘i as the 50th state of the union. He unveils the new fifty-star American flag as part of the ceremony in 1959.

But statehood really came earlier in the year and the Hawai‘i Air National Guard had a part in the statewide celebration.

Alaska became the 49th State earlier on January 3, 1959. The United States Congress then began work to consider Hawai‘i for statehood.

On March 11, 1959, the United States Senate passes Hawai‘i’s Statehood Bill, 75 to 15, and transmits the bill to the House of Representatives for further action. The following day at 10:04 am Hawaiian Standard Time, the United States House of Representatives passes Hawai‘i’s Statehood Bill, 323 to 89, granting statehood to Hawaii.

Territorial Governor William Quinn then issued an official proclamation announcing the Statehood Bill passing and declaring a two-day celebration. In a time before facsimiles and email, the governor asked the Hawai‘i Air National Guard to fly his proclamation to each of the island mayors.

Chosen to fly these missions were Captain Ross “Roscoe” England, Lieutenants Carl “Tweety” Nakamura and Melvin “Humphrey” Souza. (Captain England’s son, Charles England, retired from the Hawaii Army National Guard.)


Retiree News contacted Carl Nakamura requesting more information and any personal remembrances of that day 55 years ago today. Retiree News thanks Carl for his memorabilia and comments.

“Roscoe” (Kauai), “Humphrey” (Maui), and “Tweety” (Hawaii), took off on a beautiful morning in Honolulu but as I approached the Hamakua coastline I noticed that the Hilo area was completely socked in. I was not sure I could land but I asked the tower for permission to make an instrument approach to see if there was an opening in the clouds. As I approached the runway visibility was so poor that I thought I needed to execute a missed approach and head back to Oahu but at the last minute there was a small opening that allowed me to land the aircraft. I think the tower closed that airfield soon after I landed.

Chairman Kealoha and his staff member met me at the airport and he invited me to ride in his motorcade through downtown Hilo. The invitation was quite an honor for a very junior pilot but I declined with the excuse that it was raining heavily and I wanted to return to Hickam AFB as soon as the tower gave me the clearance to do so. The Hilo Tribune was also at the airport and took pictures of me delivering the proclamation to Chairman Kealoha.

click on photographs to enlarge

First photograph: Mel Souza is correct in that it was a photo of me receiving the envelope containing Governor William F. Quinn’s Statehood Proclamation at Hickam AFB in 1959 to deliver it to Hawaii County Chairman James K. Kealoha. There was no Hawaii county mayor’s office before statehood.

Second photograph: a photo of Capt. Ross England and Lt. Souza awaiting Governor Quinn’s proclamation. I cannot recall the name of the sergeant driving  the truck but I know that he was very popular and polished Col Ashford’s Shiny Stiny.  (Several Retiree News readers said it is Lawrence Partika driving the car.)

Third photograph: May 13, 1959 Hilo Tribune-Herald photograph and caption.


President Eisenhower signed Hawai‘i’s Statehood Bill, The Act to Provide for the Admission of the State of Hawai‘i, on March 18, 1959. Interestingly, Hawai‘i’s only delegate to Congress, John Burns (the future governor), did not attend the signing ceremony. He was not invited.

Hawaii’s journey to statehood was a long and winding road that began in 1903. Read more

A YouTube video showing the bill signing
A YouTube video that show the celebration at Iolani Palace
A YouTube video a celebration at the old Honolulu Stadium, includes a few seconds of the Hawai‘i Army National Guard band.     

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