Rancher, community activist Harold 'Freddy' Rice dies

Rancher, community activist Harold 'Freddy' Rice dies
(Image: Ethan Tweedie)
(Image: Ethan Tweedie)

MAUI (HawaiiNewsNow) - Well-known Big Island rancher and community activist Harold "Freddy" Rice has died.

Rice reportedly died of a stroke while on Maui last week.

He's known for a legal battle against the state to end race-based elections for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.

In 1996, he filed suit against the state saying the use of public tax funds to pay for Hawaiian-only elections was unconstitutional.

Rice vs. Cayetano went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court who ruled in Rice's favor.

Critics of the lawsuit claim that Rice's actions were anti-Hawaiian in nature, and put the programs and funding of OHA at risk.

"The Freddy I know was very fond, very respected of the Hawaiian community in a long standing and very sincere way that it seemed to be -- to an unknowing person -- appear to be contrary to that," Dr. Billy Bergin said.

"Even though it was not necessarily a popular effort that he led, he really did it on behalf of wanting to have a clear pathway for forward movement of the Hawaiian community without any disruption that could be recalled due to constitutional issues," Bergin added.

In his later years, Rice lived as an active paniolo, businessman and student of the Hawaiian language and culture.

He died at the age of 83.

Public services are set for Friday, Feb. 16 at the Paniolo Preservation Society's Paniolo Heritage Center at the Pukalani Stables. The welcome will begin at 4 p.m. with a service to follow at 5 p.m.

Copyright 2018 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.