A Vow Remembered: Lawrence M. Judd and His Pledge to Kalaupapa
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A Vow Remembered:
Lawrence M. Judd and His Pledge to Kalaupapa

Lawrence raced down Nu‘uanu Avenue on his bike, eager to gawk at the newly arrived U.S. Navy transport ships at the Honolulu harbor. Other activities involving celebrations, parades or royal visits had reached this waterfront in times past, but this was a different scene. As he slowly coasted closer to the pier he saw a crowd of Hawaiians of varying ages, mostly barefooted, was huddled behind an odd white picket fence awkwardly erected on the platform above the gangplank, intended to keep a separation between loved ones. Some of the people clung to the fence as they wept and howled. A young girl, cheeks glistening from tears, looked up and met the eyes of Lawrence. He felt her pain and searched for an explanation.

Lawrence rode to a uniformed man to ask what was happening and who these unfortunate people were. The man explained that the bereaved souls were family and loved ones of victims of leprosy who were being transported now to the Kalaupapa settlement. A large carriage [End Page 1] van arrived, and a health department officer led the patients out and onto the platform to say their last goodbyes to their families, who stood on the other side of the whitewashed fence. The wails and cries accelerated. All were careful not to draw near each other or touch. Brief tearful exchanges were made while health officials unloaded the patients’ meager belongings from the van and placed them onto the cattle boat. Lawrence watched intently as the sorrowful procession of passengers walked slowly down the gangplank and found a place on the unpretentious, dirty inter-island cattle boat. Young and old waved their last farewells as they sailed toward their new lives of uncertainty and loneliness.

It was, at once, an unforgettable moment frozen in time, burned into the psyche of an impressionable young man. The scene of misfortune and heartache witnessed that day fashioned a rudder by which Lawrence would steer the rest of his life. Imaginations of becoming a celebrated naval captain dissolved, and a new vow took root in his heart. Somehow, some time, he would help these people of Kalaupapa.1

Honorable Heritage

The Judd family tree was rife with a legacy of respectable and dedicated public servants. Lawrence’s grandfather, Dr. Gerrit P. Judd, and his grandmother, Laura Fish Judd, accepted an assignment from the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions to serve as missionaries in Hawai‘i. Leaving their New England home behind, in 1828 they fashioned a new one on the once dusty plains of Honolulu. Dr. Judd consecrated himself to public service and over the years held many impressive government positions. As a cabinet minister he advised and translated for King Kamehameha III, and as a diplomat he assisted in preserving the independence of the Sandwich Islands. Young Lawrence never knew his grandfather but said he felt his presence. Respect and admiration for the pioneering Judds was as much a heritage for him as were his genes.

Albert Francis Judd, Lawrence’s father, served as Hawaiian Supreme Court Chief Justice for nearly two decades. He and his wife, Agnes Hall Boyd, parented nine children, Lawrence being their youngest child, born March 20, 1887 in Honolulu.2 [End Page 2]

Coupled with this philanthropic heritage was the Judd family tradition of daily Christian devotionals, consisting of father’s Bible readings and mother’s pipe organ hymnal.3 All this combined to forge a reliable moral character in Lawrence. In his late teens, one of his career objectives was to acquire enough finances to make good on his promise to help alleviate the hardships of leprosy patients.4 At last he discovered his goals could be realized through legal and influential public positions. He entered the arena and quickly rose in the ranks. Judd became a household name among Hawaiians and his service a well-known matter of public record. Not as duly noted is Judd’s untiring devotion and service to patients stricken with leprosy (now officially recognized in the medical field as Hansen’s disease). Judd worked as superintendent...