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Rep. Takai with President Obama, August 26, 2015 (Photo courtesy: Hawaiʻi Congressional Papers Collection )

A collection of papers from the late Hawaiʻi congressman and University of Hawaiʻi alumnus K. Mark Takai (1967–2016) is now available for public access in the UH Mānoa Hamilton Library.

k. mark takai headshot
K. Mark Takai

Housed in the Hawaiʻi Congressional Papers Collection, the collection was generously donated by Takai’s wife, Sami.

The papers document the congressman’s work in the Hawaiʻi State Legislature, his time in Congress, as well as his tenure as president of the Associated Students of the UH (ASUH) and editor of the UH Mānoa student newspaper, Ka Leo O Hawaiʻi.

“The Hawaiʻi Congressional Papers Collection is so pleased to be able to share this collection with the public, and to play a small part in stewarding Rep. Takai’s legacy,” said Dawn Sueoka, congressional papers archivist. “From his early days in ASUH leadership to his work in the U.S. Congress, this collection tells the story of a life dedicated to public service.”

UH Mānoa years

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Ka Leo O Hawaiʻi press pass, 1990. (Photo courtesy: Hawaiʻi Congressional Papers Collection )

Takai attended UH Mānoa on a swimming scholarship, earned a bachelor’s degree in political science in 1990, and a master’s degree in public health in 1993. While an undergraduate at UH, Takai was active in student government. He served as chair of the lobbying committee of the ASUH, and was elected the association’s president in 1989.

From 1990 to 1991, Takai served as editor in chief of Ka Leo O Hawaiʻi. During this period, the paper was a lightning rod for some of the most critical issues that the university was struggling with, including racism and sexism.

Related: Remembering Representative K. Mark Takai, July 20, 2016

Materials in the Takai collection document an important period in UH Mānoa’s history. They include material documenting the controversy around letters published in the Ka Leo by the late Professor Haunani-Kay Trask and student Joey Carter, the fight to publish a column in ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi (Hawaiian language) without translation, and examples of racist and sexist flyers that were anonymously posted around campus at that time.

Sueoka noted, “The collection is small compared to our other congressional collections, but it really succinctly documents Takai’s work, and it has some incredible material in it.”

The Hawaiʻi Congressional Papers Collection comprises the papers of Hawaiʻi delegates to the U.S. Congress from statehood in 1959 to the present, including: U.S. Senator Hiram L. Fong, U.S. Senator Spark M. Matsunaga, U.S. Representative Patricia F. Saiki, U.S. Senator Daniel Akaka, U.S. Senator Daniel K. Inouye, among others.

To make an appointment to access the collection, email or call (808) 956-6047.

More about Takai

sen. tammy duckworth with takai
Sen. Tammy Duckworth and Takai (then a state representative), ca. 2009-2011. (Photo courtesy: Hawaiʻi Congressional Papers Collection )

Takai represented ʻAiea and Pearl City in the Hawaiʻi State Legislature for 20 years, where he was known as a dedicated, energetic and well-liked public servant and a champion of education and of veterans issues. While in the legislature, he established the Hawaiʻi Medal of Honor to honor service members with Hawaiʻi ties that had been killed in Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan. Takai himself was a Lt. Col. in the Hawaiʻi Army National Guard and was activated in 2005, and again in 2009, when he deployed to Kuwait for 6 months.

Takai was elected to Congress in 2014 (representing Hawaiʻi’s First Congressional District), and was named to the House Committee on Armed Services and the House Committee on Natural Resources.

Though he died from pancreatic cancer in 2016, his legislation to compensate military personnel exposed to radioactive debris in the Marshall Islands continued to be championed by his colleagues, as the Mark Takai Atomic Veterans Healthcare Parity Act. The measure became part of the 117th Congress’s PACT Act, which expanded benefits for veterans exposed to toxic substances. It was signed into law by President Biden on August 10, 2022.

takai asuh flyer
ASUH campaign flier, 1989. (Photo courtesy: Hawaiʻi Congressional Papers Collection)
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