Hall of Fame: Francis Brown Wai (1935)

At Punahou (1923 – 1935), Francis Wai was an outstanding athlete in a number of sport, and noted mostly for his football talent. In his senior academy years he won six letters, two each in football, baseball and track. In football, Francis was a “two-way” player. On offense he was both quarterback and blocking back. On defense his ferocious blocking and tackling won ILH Coaches All-Star Second Team honors in 1933 and First Team honors in 1934. In 1934 the coaches agreed “that Wai was by far the outstanding defensive back surpassing all others by a wide margin.” A strong second baseman, he was one of the baseball team’s top hitters. In track Francis starred in both the discus and the javelin throw.This article appears as originally published in the Summer 1994 issue of the Punahou Bulletin.

Beginning in his early years, Francis became also an outstanding surfer and canoe paddler, winning many medals in both categories. While only a junior at Punahou, he captained Hui Nalu’s senior two-man, senior four-man, and senior six-man canoe teams in the Kealakekua Regatta of 1933 – a remarkable feat for a high school athlete.


Following Punahou, Francis attended Sacramento Junior College along with classmate Carlos “Sonny” Long. The Two islanders started Sacramento, which had only a mediocre team, on its way to being a football powerhouse. While at Sacramento, Francis added discus to his javelin throw and earned letters in both football and track. In his second year at Sacramento, Francis decided to take up boxing he ended up the light-heavy weight champion of the Northern California Junior College Conference.

After Sacramento, Francis entered UCLA and became a valued member of its powerful UCLA Pacific Conference football teams. His blocking talent was given credit for running-back Kenny Washington being named to several All-American Football Teams in 1937 – 38. A two-way standout, he was the team’s top linebacker.

Returning to Honolulu following graduation, he was advised by his doctors not to play football because of the heavy toll taken on his back by his college tackling and blocking. He did however, participate in the AAU and Rainbow Relays, establishing a record in the javelin throw in 1941 that stood for 15 years.

Francis died at the young age of 27, while a captain in the Army, in the return battle of General MacArthur to the Philippines.

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