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Lorrin Thurston

By Mike Gordon 
Advertiser Staff Writer


Advertiser library photo

The grandson of a Protestant missionary, Lorrin Thurston was a key figure in the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy and the annexation of the Island republic by the United States.

Born in 1858, he was an attorney by training and a political columnist and while serving as a Cabinet member in the kingdom was noted as a fearless debater given to loud fist-clenched monologues.

In 1887, he formed the shadowy Hawaiian League and wrote the so-called "Bayonet Constitution" that stripped King Kalakaua of his power.

When Lili'uokalani became queen and proposed her own constitution, Thurston led the self-proclaimed Committee of Safety. His views at the time were clear: He had already argued for annexation in Washington, D.C., saying it was needed to foster good government and quell racial unrest.

On Jan. 17, 1893, Thurston's group forced Lili'uokalani to surrender and a month later asked the U.S. Senate to ratify a treaty of annexation. It would be five years, however, before annexation was officially approved.

In 1898, he purchased the Pacific Commercial Advertiser. Serving as its publisher, he championed tourism and the sugar industry.

Thurston helped establish the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park in 1916, and the Thurston lava tube is named after him. He often guided visiting U.S. congressmen through the park.

He died in 1931 at the age of 72.