Richard “Dickie” Wong, who rose from humble roots to become president of the state Senate and chairman of the powerful Bishop Estate’s board of trustees, has died.
Wong died over the weekend after a lengthy illness. He was 88.
“There’s nobody like Dickie Wong. There’s never going to be another Dickie Wong,” said former Gov. Neil Abercrombie.
“Dickie was a street kid, barefoot on Hotel Street shinning shoes. And he ended up as the premier leader — the leader of the Hawaii state Senate.”
He was a labor organizer, civil rights advocate, state Senate president and chairman of the Bishop Estate.
“People don’t know he marched with Martin Luther King Jr.,” added Abercrombie.
Abercrombie served with Wong in the state Senate for many years — as did former Gov. Ben Cayetano.
“Dickie was a real people person and that’s how he organized the Senate. We were pretty close although we had some differences,” said Cayetano.
Those differences erupted in 1997 during the Bishop Estate controversy.
That’s when Cayetano ordered then-Attorney General Margery Bronster to investigate Wong and his fellow Bishop Estate trustees over allegations of mismanagement and self-dealing.
All five trustees were removed from their $1 million-a-year jobs and the estate changed its name to the Kamehameha Schools.
“He was not found responsible for any wrongdoing in that period. He was involved in civil and criminal litigation in which he was cleared of,” said his attorney Eric Seitz.
“Although there is criticism to be had over the way (the trustees) administered the school, overall the Bishop Estate came out of that process in a much stronger position.”
Wong is survived by his former spouses Sharane and Mari, two sons and three daughters.