Thurston Twigg-Smith

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Thurston Twigg-Smith (August 17, 1921 – July 16, 2016) [1] was an American businessman and philanthropist from Hawaii.



Twigg-Smith was a fifth-generation descendant of missionary settlers in Hawaii. He was born in 1921 in Honolulu, Hawaii, the son of William and Margaret Carter Twigg-Smith (née Thurston) (1895–1976). He was the great-great-grandson of two missionary couples: Asa and Lucy Goodale Thurston and Lorrin Andrews and his wife Mary Ann Wilson. He was the grandson of an American lawyer, politician, and businessman born and raised in the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi, Lorrin A. Thurston, who played a key role in the 1893 overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom. His father William was an artist and a musician, who supported his family as an illustrator at the Hawaiian Sugar Planters' Association.

Twigg-Smith grew up in the lower Nuʻuanu Valley on Bates Street, in a house his father built. At the time, L.A. Thurston was publisher of the Honolulu Advertiser .

Twigg-Smith, his brother David, and sister Barbara attended Lincoln and Kapalama elementary schools. Twigg-Smith went on to President Theodore Roosevelt High School for junior high and entered Punahou School in the 10th grade on a scholarship.

He graduated from Punahou School in 1938 and earned a mechanical engineering degree from Yale University in 1942. Twigg-Smith served in the armed forces during World War II in Europe in five campaigns. He attained the rank of captain in the field artillery and was awarded the Bronze Star.

Returning to Hawaii in December 1945, he started work at the Honolulu Advertiser in February 1946. As a major, he started the 483rd Field Artillery battalion in the Hawaii National Guard. He left the guard in 1954 as a lieutenant colonel to concentrate on his duties as managing editor of the newspaper.

In 1961 Twigg-Smith took control of the financially ailing paper with the help of outside investors. It became financially profitable. In 1993 it was bought by a regional subsidiary of the Gannett Company for $250 million. [2]

Twigg-Smith founded the Persis Corporation in 1967, originally named "Asa Corporation (Hawaii)" after his ancestor. [3] Persis Corporation philanthropy includes Honolulu Museum of Art Spalding House (formerly The Contemporary Museum, Honolulu), [4] Friends of Opal Creek, [5] Goodale Farm, Hawaii Theatre Center, [6] Historic Hawaii Foundation, [7] the Laniakea Foundation, the Lyman House Memorial Museum, Punahou School, and Yale University. Thurston Twigg-Smith was a major supporter of non-profit service organizations and of the arts, and in 1997 he was named Hawaii's Philanthropist of the Year. [8] The Yale University website notes:

"Thurston Twigg-Smith has long been an enthusiastic patron of both artists and art museums," says Susan Vogel, the Henry J. Heinz II Director of the gallery. "Since 1991, when he joined the Yale Art Gallery's governing board, he has given us 38 important contemporary works, among them such masterpieces as Diebenkorn's 'Ocean Park No. 24' and Wayne Thiebaud's 'Drink Syrups.' And 80 more are promised. It gives us great pleasure to share with our visitors the spirited and often witty works of art that have charmed this collector's 'Hawaiian Eye.'" [9]

Twigg-Smith died on July 16, 2016. [10]

Legacy and honors

Opposition to Hawaiian sovereignty

In the 1990s, Twigg-Smith began taking an active role in opposing the Hawaiian sovereignty movement, writing a book, Hawaiian Sovereignty: Do the Facts Matter? [11] in 1994 that defended his grandfather's actions. He funded several programs and lawsuits that advocate against a sovereign Hawaiian nation and Hawaiian-based policies in Hawaii.

Family life

In 1942 he married Bessie Blossom Bell (1921-2010) and divorced in 1984. They had five children.

He married Laila Roster (née Bergs) (1944-1998), an art collector, in 1984; they divorced in 1994. [12]

In 1996 he married Sharon Carter Smith.

Related Research Articles

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Committee of Safety (Hawaii)</span> Organization

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Lorrin A. Thurston</span> Hawaiian politician

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Asa Thurston</span>

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Lucy Goodale Thurston</span> Christian missionary

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Thurston is an English-language name. The name has several origins. In some cases it can have originated from the Old Norse personal name Þórsteinn. This name is derived from the Old Norse elements Þórr and steinn. In other cases the name can have originated from the name of Thurston, located in Suffolk, England. This place name is derived from the Old Norse personal name Þóri and the Old English element tūn.

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Edward C. Macfarlane</span> American politician (1848–1902)

Edward Creamor Macfarlane, also known as Ned Macfarlane, was a politician of the Kingdom of Hawaii. He served as Minister of Finance during the reign of Queen Liliuokalani, and was one of her trusted political advisors during the Overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii.


  1. Who's who in the West: A Biographical Dictionary of Noteworthy Men and Women of the Pacific Coast and the Western States. A.N. Marquis Company. 2004. p. 626. ISBN   083790935X.
  2. Will Hoover (July 2, 2006). "Thurston Twigg-Smith". Honolulu Advertiser . Retrieved December 4, 2010.
  3. "About Persis Corporation: History". Persis Corporation. Archived from the original on July 15, 2011. Retrieved December 4, 2010.
  4. The Contemporary Museum: Honolulu web site
  5. The Friends of Opal Creek web site
  6. Hawaii Theatre Center web site
  7. Historic Hawaii Foundation web site
  8. "National Philanthropy Day - Past Awardees". Association of Fundraising Professionals, Aloha Chapter. Archived from the original on 2011-07-24. Retrieved 2009-10-12.
  9. "Exhibit honors alumnus art collector's discerning 'Hawaiian Eye'". Yale Bulletin and Calendar News Stories Volume 25, Number 20. Yale University. February 1997. Archived from the original on 2009-04-19. Retrieved 2009-10-12.
  10. "Former Honolulu Advertiser publisher Twigg-Smith dies". Star Advertiser. Retrieved 17 July 2016.
  11. Thurston Twigg-Smith (1998), Hawaiian sovereignty: do the facts matter, Goodale Publishing, ISBN   978-0-9662945-0-7
  12. "Laila Twigg-Smith, Art Collector, 53". New York Times . April 4, 1998. Retrieved 2009-10-12.