John “Jack” Desha, 2018.

Stars of Yesteryear


Judge John “Jack” Desha, another of Hawaii’s oldtime greats in sports, attended Kamehameha and Punahou schools in Honolulu, participating in football, baseball, track, soccer and tennis. He has the honor of being elected captain of the Punahou nine for three straight years. He was an outstanding shortstop at Punahou and later at Harvard University.

The Judge attended Harvard from 1908 to 1912 and participated in baseball and played some football also, but wasn’t big enough for the tough Eastern circuits.

He recalled that Harvard won the mythical baseball championship of the…

Bill Pacheco

…East in 1911, playing 31 games of which they won 28. He was a shortstop.

*     *     *

Asked if any other Hawaii athletes were at Harvard at that time, he replied: “Yes, Fred Lowrey was one. Then there were the Withington boys, Paul and Lothrop.”

*     *     *

Judge Desha told of an interesting incident about “Doc” Withington. “He was quite a wrestler,” he said. “Once when he was going to wrestle the champion of the New England states for the light heavyweight diadem we kidded him. His opponent had been champion for five years. We went along to see the match and to cheer our classmate. When the bell sounded for the first round ‘Doc’ grabbed the champ by the wrist and flipped him into the air, felled him to the mat and pinned him.

“I think ‘Doc’ used some judo, for it all happened so fast. Those days it was only one fall for a match. We sure went wild to know that our Paul was the new champion.”

Judge Desha also recalled that Joseph Patrick Kennedy, former ambassador to Great Britain, and Kermit Roosevelt, son of the late Theodore Roosevelt, were his classmates at Harvard. Following his graduation, he was appointed secretary to the Hon. Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole, who was then delegate from Hawaii.

The judge said he didn’t play…


…much baseball after his return from the mainland, and added:

*     *     *

“In 1922 I was appointed judge of the domestic relations court in Honolulu by President Harding. However, I more or less managed ball teams after my appointment to the bench.

*     *     *

“We had a team called the Hawaiians. The president was William H. Heen, now a senator, and Leon Sterling, city-county clerk, was our secretary. I managed the club which had fellows like Bill Smith, Maltbie Holt, Bill White, Ducky Swan, Lang Akana and Senator Francis Brown, who was part owner of the club. I also take credit for coaching Johnny Kerr while I was managing the Kam prep team.” (Kerr is a player-manager of the Wanderers in the Hawaii league).

*     *     *

Judge Desha is a member of the “H” Club of Harvard, a member of the Delta Epsilon, and a member of the boxing commission of Hawaii. He is at present an associate prosecutor o the City and County legal department.

(Advertiser, 4/29/1946, p. 10)


The Honolulu Advertiser, 89th Year, Number 20,896, Page 10. April 29, 1946.


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