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  • Dr. Richard You and the Golden Age of Hawai'i's Athletics
  • John D. Fair (bio)

No evil can happen to a good man, either in life or after death. He and his are not neglected by the gods.

—Plato

Dr. Richard Wonsik You was a man of remarkable achievement. In a career spanning several decades, this highly skilled physician devoted his talents to promoting sports and providing health and fitness opportunities to Hawai'i residents. With boundless enthusiasm and a generous spirit, You used his medical practice to treat injured athletes, enhance their performance through dietary measures, and raise public awareness of their accomplishments, nearly always free of charge. His efforts comprehended virtually all sports and fitness endeavors, including football, basketball, swimming, boxing, track and field, distance running, and Tae Kwon Do, but he took a special interest in weightlifting, where his treatments and promotional zeal would sometimes yield spectacular results. With You's encouragement, medical treatments, and financial support, Hawai'i athletes started winning national and international championships, and civic [End Page 131]


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Figure 1.

Dr. Richard Wonsik You. Tommy Kono Collection, Stark Center for Physical Culture and Sports, University of Texas at Austin.

leaders gained a greater awareness of health and fitness. Concomitantly, for his widely publicized successes, You received many awards, speaking invitations, and positions of public trust. By the granting of statehood in 1959, he acquired a reputation as a community leader who would unfailingly sacrifice himself to help others. But by the mid-1970s, some public figures suspected that You's obsessive promotion of athletes and solicitations of patients was merely a means of self-promotion, especially because he took every opportunity to publicize his accomplishments. However, what ultimately brought about the downfall of this revered advocate of the public good was his practice of overprescribing medications to patients in violation of state Department of Health standards and, ultimately, the law. For these transgressions, You, despite his many achievements and generosity on behalf of Hawai'i's athletes and citizens, lost his medical license and much of the respect that his community owed him. How the reputation of such an honorable man and the golden era he fostered could have [End Page 132] become so tarnished is one of the curiosities of Hawai'i's medical ethics history.

Wrestling Aspirations

Richard Wonsik You was born on December 23, 1916, in Honolulu, the sixth of seven children, to Dong Men You and Mary Choi You, who migrated from Korea to Hawai'i in 1905. 1 As a youth, he was "painfully shy," according to a family account, and had to work in the family's laundry and tailor shop and odd jobs, which included selling newspapers to railway commuters and selling flowers door-to-door. Later, he worked summers in the syrup department at the Hawaiian Pineapple Company. Young You was also "small and weak as a boy, so he took the Earle Liederman body building course in 1930 and avidly read books on health, body building, and exercise." 2 As a child of modest beginnings from a broken home, his desire for self-improvement and positivity became a life-long trait for You. It was fostered by the rich learning environment he encountered at Honolulu's premier high school. As Lawrence H. Fuchs argues in his 1961 social history, "McKinley High School became a symbol. To some it was Tokyo High School, where the children of Hawai'i's immigrants were filled with crazy ideas unsuited to island life. To thousands of school children on O'ahu, it was a symbol of hope." 3 These sentiments are echoed by Maenette Benham and Ronald Heck, who attribute the movement to Principal Miles Cary, who urged students to "think, challenge, and change their environment." The importance of Cary and the progressive teachers at McKinley to the "future economic and political life in Hawai'i," they contend, "cannot be underplayed." 4 By the time You graduated from McKinley High School in 1935, he possessed a first-class education and a level of muscularity that enabled him to wrestle competitively. At the Oriental Wresting Championships at...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2169-7639
Print ISSN
0440-5145
Pages
pp. 131-166
Launched on MUSE
2021-12-04
Open Access
No
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