I Respectfully Dissent: The Biography of Edward H. Nakamura
184pp. May 2012
I Respectfully Dissent: A Biography of Edward H. Nakamura
Author: Coffman, Tom;
Winner of the 2013 Ka Palapala Po‘okela Award of Excellence in Nonfiction

Tom Coffman’s portrait of Edward Nakamura is both insightful biography and engrossing political history. The arc of the story may sound familiar (the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the GI Bill, Statehood), but it is strewn with surprise, resulting from Nakamura’s unshakable creed and unique angle of vision.

Translating the political gains of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, Nakamura played a central role—unpublicized—in devising arguably the most progressive program of legislation in an American state: universal health care, temporary disability insurance, collective bargaining rights for public workers, and more—all of which forever changed the Hawai‘i worker’s landscape.

Vaulted from relative anonymity onto the Hawai‘i Supreme Court, Nakamura was acclaimed for his powerful intellect, his writing, and, most of all, his iron will and integrity. In retirement, he became a dissenting moral force. He fought mismanagement in the State Retirement System, helped to block a highly controversial Supreme Court appointment, and agitated for separating the high court from the Bishop Estate.

28 illus.

A Latitude 20 Book
“A remarkable story. . . . What Coffman has done is to share Nakamura’s story in a fresh, instructive way that reminds Hawaii of, as Lincoln put it, the better angels of our nature. . . . Coffman makes history seem less distant and gives life to a man who may have been forgotten by many.” —Honolulu Civil Beat (6 July 2012; read the full review: http://www.civilbeat.com/articles/2012/07/06/16273-dissent-patriotism-and-ed-nakamura/)

“If your idealism needs a reboot, read political historian Tom Coffman’s new book I Respectfully Dissent. . . . The book provides a history of the times as well as a biography of the man, following Nakamura through his service in the 442nd, his career as a top labor lawyer, his time as a University of Hawaii regent, his term on the Supreme Court and his ‘retirement’ years as perhaps the most influential critic of the Democratic revolution that had given way to greed and malfeasance. Nakamura was defined by personal modesty, an immense intellect, a true ethical compass and an unwavering belief in democracy in its broadest sense.” —Honolulu Star Advertiser (27 June 2012)

“Rarely do we encounter someone who not only touches our daily lives but also shapes society for the better. Ed Nakamura was such a person, a visionary who lived simply, who was gentle in manner yet fierce in his life-long devotion to justice.” —Lowell Chun-Hoon, labor lawyer

“Ed Nakamura mentored me and many others. He was disarmingly down to earth. We remember him with profound respect and abiding affection.” —Eric Yamamoto, Richardson School of Law, University of Hawai‘i
Author: Coffman, Tom;
Tom Coffman is a writer and film-maker, grounded in the political history of Hawai‘i. His Catch a Wave: A Case Study of Hawaii’s New Politics, about John A. Burns and the internal battles of the Hawai‘i Democratic Party, was an instant best-seller. His Nation Within: The Story of America’s Annexation of the Nation of Hawai‘i and The Island Edge of America: A Political History of Hawai‘i both won the Hawai‘i Book Publishers Association’s award for nonfiction writing, and for his cumulative work he received the Hawai‘i Award for Literature.

Read Chapter 1 (PDF).
Foreword by Nadine Nakamura 

1 Between Annexation and Pearl Harbor  
2 The Transformative War 
3 What Is Life’s Purpose? 
4 A Lawyer for Workers 
5 With Justice for All 
6 Public Servant, Inner Being 
7 The Court’s Scholar 
8 The Supreme Court and Bishop Estate 
9 The Public’s Conscience 

The Jurisprudence of Justice Edward H. Nakamura by Ben Lowenthal, Esq. 
Edward H. Nakamura Endowed Memorial Fund