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Modern History

Thelma with Baby Richard

About this time, Alfred Wellington Carter, a respected Honolulu businessman and judge, became guardian of Thelma Kahiluonapuaapi‘ilani Parker, great-great-granddaughter of John Parker, great-niece of Samuel and fifth-generation Ranch heir. Because her father died at age 19 when Thelma was two years old, mother Elizabeth (“Aunt Tootsie”) raised her daughter alone. She saw the wisdom of hiring a strong ranch manager to help protect Thelma’s interests and the Ranch’s future. Carter became that champion, guiding its growth with a steady hand for nearly 50 years.

AW Carter

Alfred Wellington Carter


Carter was an innovator, focused on improving and expanding Ranch operations, as well as raising horses, which he loved. Under his leadership, and because of his relationships with high-ranking people, Parker Ranch supplied horses to the U.S. Cavalry when it was still mounted, and to the Army, including General Patton. The ranch also sold horses to the Emperor of Japan for his Royal Riding Stable.

“In times of bounty, Carter shared the abundance with the ranching ‘ohana by instituting a home ownership program. Through no-interest loans and reasonable payment schedules, it became possible for as many families as desired it to own their own property,” writes author Jan Wizinowich in her well-researched blog. “Through the auspices of Carter, Parker Ranch also shared its bounty with the Waimea community through educational resources, donations to charitable organizations and care of the elderly.” {To read the full article, visit}

Aunt Tootsie with Richard Smart

Aunt Tootsie with Richard Smart

Thelma’s son Richard Smart was born in 1913, sixth-generation and final heir to Parker Ranch. Carter continued to manage the Ranch and advise Smart, and under his (and later son Hartwell Carter’s) direction, Parker Ranch grew to over 500,000 acres and 30,000 head of cattle.

Waimea had hosted the U.S. military in the past, but when World War II swept the winds of change across Parker Ranch again, this time it brought in truckloads of cold, exhausted Marines after the horrific battle of Betio. Richard Smart leased acreage to the Marine Corps, who set up what was called “Camp Tarawa” to honor one of the Corps’ greatest sacrifices, and began training for attacks on Iwo Jima and Okinawa. Almost overnight, the paniolo town became home to 50,000 young men far from home and Waimea changed forever.

“Waimea leapt into the twentieth century because of the technology and plenty that seemed to have followed the Marines into town. An electric generator allowed settlement houses to be lit by bulb rather than kerosene. The Waimea Elementary School and the Waimea Hotel became a 400-bed hospital with modern medical facilities. The engineers dammed the Waikoloa stream, constructed reservoirs to supply water to the division and the town, and erected temporary Canek structures behind the St. James Church. An ice house helped Marine cooks to turn out seeming tons of ice cream for delighted town children and adults. Entrepreneurs from all over the island began to show up to sell the thousands of papers that the Marines read and the hills of hot dogs that everyone consumed while watching the ball games at the park….

“In a wild rodeo, Marines from the Southwest and a few civilians who had never ridden a horse challenged the local paniolo to feats of cowboy skill. The results of this contest were not as close as the ball game, but no serious injuries resulted. Bruised contestants consumed several steers at the barbecue that the ranch threw for the competitors.” {from a Waimea Gazette article by Gordon W. Bryson. To read the full story, visit}


The Ranch’s first rodeo was Hawaii’s first rodeo, held on the 4th of July, now an annual tradition, thanks to the U. S. Marine Corps. A monument to those who trained at Camp Tarawa was erected in 1984, located near the entrance to the Ranch Historic Homes, and is visited often by Veterans and their families.

Richard Smart

After the war, Richard Smart, a gifted actor and musician, continued his career in theatre, performing on Broadway and across Europe—with stage “royalty” like Carol Channing, Charlie Chaplin, Mary Martin and more. He returned to the Ranch to stay in 1960, and resided in Puuopelu, the grand “Hawaiian Victorian” house purchased by John Parker II in 1879.

During the 60’s, as the Island’s sugar cane economy began to wane, venture capitalist Laurance S. Rockefeller (LSR) visited Hawai‘i, at the invitation of the new state’s first Governor, William S. Quinn. Smart signed a 99-year lease with Rockefeller on 500 acres near the ocean, unsuitable for grazing. “It’s on land the cows don’t like but the tourists love—hot and barren,” he said in an interview with People. {Read the full story here:,,20198417,00.html}

Overlooking the beautiful crescent-shaped beach at Kauna‘oa, LSR created his visionary Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, which catalyzed resort development on the Kohala Coast. {For more about the hotel, visit:}

And, coming full circle, LSR also obtained the land at Pu‘ukoholā, the site of King Kamehameha I’s great temple—built to fulfill the prophecy that he would one day unite and rule the Hawaiian Islands. LSR had the site renovated and donated it to the National Park Service.


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