J. Walter Cameron (June 6, 1895 – January 2, 1976)
Born in 1895 in Canton, Massachusetts, J. Walter Cameron settled in Hawaii in April 1923, and worked for The Honolulu Advertiser.
On a blind date arranged by friends, he met Frances Baldwin, daughter of Harry Alexander Baldwin, manager of Maui Agricultural Company—a sugar plantation that encompassed East Maui Irrigation Company. Mr. Baldwin was involved in other Maui businesses and Territorial politics. J. Walter Cameron and Miss Baldwin were married in July 1924.
On Maui, Mr. Cameron invested in the Maui News, then a bi-weekly publication. Later, under his leadership, The Maui News became a tri-weekly afternoon newspaper. Today, The Maui News is published daily as a morning paper. Mr. Cameron saw radio broadcasting as another means of delivering the news to Maui and in 1946 he opened KMVI, Maui’s first radio station.
A wise and farsighted businessman, J. Walter Cameron fostered growth in a number of businesses including Maui Publishing Company, Haleakala Ranch, and Maui Electric Company. Through his relationship with the Baldwin family, he was manager of Maui Pineapple Company for forty-four (44) years and for a while served as the president of Alexander & Baldwin, Inc (A&B). Later, he bought both A&B’s interest in Maui Pine, thereby acquiring A&B’s Baldwin holdings in pineapple co. and it’s Honolua Plantation in West Maui. Maui Pineapple Company became publicly owned and expanded as Maui Land & Pineapple Company. J. Walter Cameron and his son Colin began the development of Kapalua resort, including the Kapalua Bay Hotel, the five-star Ritz Carlton Hotel, three championship golf courses, resort Villas, and other commercial development, always keeping in mind aloha for the people and the environment.
While Mr. Cameron’s financial acumen will long be remembered, it is his gentle compassion that endures. Beginning with his efforts for Kula Sanitarium and the TB patients there, he saw the hardships that families with disabled members faced, and learned of their worries and hopes. These spurred him, as early as 1958, to envision a place where persons with disabilities could be helped and cared for, where opportunities to experience growth and self-esteem were offered. He wanted a facility that would house agencies serving those with special needs, a facility that was strong and accessible. This was his dream for the Center that bears his name.
Mr. Cameron contributed the first $10,000 to conduct a feasibility study to see if such a facility were really possible. Housing different agencies under one roof had never been successfully achieved before. Many doubted that it could be done. It took twenty-five years of persuasion and negotiating with government and agencies before the Center was finally born. Dr. Fumio Tsuji introduced Mr. Cameron to Douglas Sodetani, who helped to obtain funds to start the Center. He also assisted with the J. Walter Cameron Center, whose namesake and family provided him with greatly appreciated guidance and support for many years. The roadway by Kahi Kamali’i is named in honor of Dr. Tsuji.
Together with his friend Douglas Sodetani, J. Walter Cameron helped raise more than $2 million dollars for the Center’s construction. Mr. Sodetani insisted the facility bear Mr. Cameron’s name. In April 1973, the six-building complex totaling 42,000 sq.ft. and united by a common roof, opened its doors to care for persons with disabilities on Maui. Mr. Cameron served as the Center’s Board President until his death in January 1976. His friend Douglas Sodetani succeeded him as Board President and served until his own passing in December 1996.