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Remembering Richard 'Dick' Rowland

Richard “Dick” Rowland, founder and chairman emeritus of the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, died Nov. 28, 2020 at the age of 90. A special tribute was held on Saturday, Dec. 18 to remember and honor his contributions to Hawaii.

Watch the full service
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A short tribute to Dick's legacy
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If you’d like to contribute to the Dick Rowland Memorial Fund, click the button below.

Memories and Remarks

Dick was a singular individual. His gracious hospitality was readily apparent; a gruff exterior quickly melted away to keep everyone on mission while having a good time. And all with a twinkle in his eye. I remember one time he took me to Zippy’s for lunch—“try the spam!”—and then to buy Hawaiian shirts, making sure I selected traditional prints that weren’t too gaudy and insisting on paying for them. I will miss him, but his spirit lives on in his family, his friends, and the Grassroot Institute.

– Ilya Shapiro

Dick Rowland was an American who loved his nation, worked to protect and expand our freedoms the state and national level. The  center-right movement in Hawaii and nationwide will long remember and miss him.

– Grover Norquist

Dick will always be remembered for his energy, his dedication to making Hawaii a better place for all, for his constant smile, and of course for his signature hat with many pins. He will be deeply missed.

– Tracie Sharp

Dick Rowland was one of the finest liberty-fighters I’ve ever known, so upbeat and kind and yet firm in his efforts to fight for liberty and against big government. He was a big fan of FreedomFest, and attended almost every year.  His steadfast support meant a lot. We will dedicate a room to him at next year’s FreedomFest, which will be held in the great land of the free — South Dakota!

– Mark Skousen

Mutual interests in free markets and individual liberty brought Dick and me together in 2000. The two of us had just launched free market think tanks. As he was busy founding the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, I was cofounding the Rio Grande Foundation of New Mexico.

We quickly found each other at events throughout the country. These events were sponsored by well-established liberty advocates that gave us help in launching: State Policy Network, Mackinac Center for Public Policy, Americans for Tax Reform, Atlas Economic Research Foundation, Cato Institute and Heritage Foundation. Like-minded scholars and advocates gathered to share ideas and research promoting the joy and benefits of freedom. Since Dick and I were both new on the job, it was a pleasure to join him two or three times per year for several years at these events. His upbeat enthusiasm was inspiring.

We continued our friendship and frequent conversations when I moved to the Big Island in 2007 (I often found myself dialing 1776!). I was delighted to assist or participate in Grassroot projects. One project Dick and I worked on was an economic analysis of the earnings of Native Hawaiians, who according to OHA and DHHL, were the down trodden victims of racial bias. That purported bias did not stand up empirically. I particularly enjoyed the opportunity to meet Dick’s colleagues in the process of presenting the study.

It was always fun to get together at events Dick organized. I particularly remember going to the Hale Koa Hotel shortly after my arrival in the state. Soon afterward there was a Pacific Rim conference of scholars at the Waikiki Sheraton.

Shortly thereafter, Dick and the Foundation for Teaching Economics coordinated an educational

event on the Big Island. 30 teachers from throughout the state participated in a two-day interactive  workshop at the Imiloa Astronomy Center in Hilo. The workshop was centered on the economic way of thinking with emphasis on typical environmental concerns. It was great fun participating with teachers. They became highly energized in applying the concepts that incentives matter and tradeoffs exist.

It was always fun to get together at events Dick organized. I particularly remember going to the Hale Koa Hotel shortly after my arrival in the state. Soon afterward there was a Pacific Rim conference of scholars at the Waikiki Sheraton.

Shortly thereafter, Dick and the Foundation for Teaching Economics coordinated an educational event on the Big Island. 30 teachers from throughout the state participated in a two-day interactive workshop at the Imiloa Astronomy Center in Hilo. The workshop was centered on the economic way of thinking with emphasis on typical environmental concerns. It was great fun participating with teachers. They became highly energized in applying the concepts that incentives matter and tradeoffs exist.

A personal note: When I was hospitalized for five weeks in Honolulu in 2010, Dick and Marie came to visit me at least twice a week. We would talk think tank talk and economics. Dick’s good humor and optimism cheered me up. We were even able to laugh about the absurd, noble-sounding local and state policies we had been opposing, particularly the train and those foisted on us by race-based elites.

Aloha, Dick. Mahalo for sharing the joy of freedom. You will continue to live on through the Grassroot Institute.

– Harry Messenheimer