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John Anthony Burns

Gov. John Anthony Burns

  • December 3, 1962 - December 2, 1974
  • Democrat
  • March 30, 1909
  • April 5, 1975
  • Montana
  • University of Hawaii
  • Married Beatrice Majors Van Vleet; three children
  • Representative
  • Army


JOHN ANTHONY BURNS was born March 30, 1909, in Ft. Assinniboine, Montana. He attended the University of Hawaii and graduated in 1930. Burns served in the U.S. Army from 1927 to 1928. In 1934, he was appointed patrolman at the Honolulu Police Department, and was a Captain when he resigned from the force in 1945. In 1941 Burns was appointed the head of special counter-espionage police unit at the request of the FBI. Burns entered politics at the close of World War II, working closely with organized labor leaders and Japanese-American war veterans to forge a Democratic party that would be an instrument of social change in Hawaii. He was an administrator at the Oahu Civil Defense Agency from 1951 to 1955, vice-director of the Territorial Civil Defense Agency from 1951 to 1953), chair of the Democratic Party of Hawaii from 1952 to 1956, and delegate to Congress from Hawaii from 1957 to 1959. Before and after World War II, Hawaii’s residents called for statehood. Congressional hearings were dominated by the issue of the islands’ Japanese population. As delegate, Burns advocated for Hawaii’s statehood. Prejudice against the Japanese and the concern about Communist influence in Hawaiian labor unions slowed the statehood campaign, but Congress finally made Hawaii the 50th state in 1959. Burns’ second term in Congress was shortened when Hawaii was finally admitted to the Union of States. In 1962, Burns was elected to the first of three terms as Governor of Hawaii. During his tenure he served as the personal representative of President Kennedy to the South Pacific Commission Conference in 1962 and personal representative of President Johnson with rank of Special Ambassador to the inauguration of President Park of Korea in 1963. Governor Burns served on the National Governors’ Conference Executive Committee from 1965 to 1966 and he chaired the Western Governors’ Conference from 1967 to 1968). For 12 years, over the course of three successive terms as governor, Burns helped to shape many important elements of Hawaii’s social and political structure that continue to this day. He passed away on April 5, 1975.

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