In 1913, Richard Palmer Smart was born to John Palmer Parker’s great-granddaughter Thelma Parker and her husband Henry Gaillard Smart. In 1914, young Smart’s parents died, leaving him to become the sole heir of the Parker fortune. In 1899, Alfred Wellington Carter, a respected Honolulu businessman and judge, had been hired by one of Parker’s relatives to manage the ranch. Carter took young Smart under his wing and showed him the ropes of Parker Ranch.
Over the next two decades the ranch continued to grow, at one point passing the half-million-acre mark, with a purebred herd of 30,000 Herefords. With Carter in firm control of the ranch, Smart was able to pursue his other love: a career on stage.
For nearly 30 years, Smart performed on Broadway and in top cabarets in the U.S. and abroad. He headlined such clubs as the Coconut Grove in Los Angeles , the Monte Carlo in New York and the Lido in Paris . He starred opposite such actresses as Eve Arden and Carol Channing. He eventually married actress Patricia Havens-Monteagle, and the couple had two sons. All the while, Smart kept in close contact with the ranch, and when Carter died in 1949, Smart moved back to Parker Ranch to stay.
Smart began improvements to Parker Ranch. He restructured and expanded much of the cattle breeding and feeding procedures. He improved the ranch headquarters and built the Parker Ranch Visitor Center with its museum, restaurant and saddle shop. He leased land to Laurance Rockefeller, who was the catalyst to resort development along the Kona-Kohala Coast . He instituted programs to benefit ranch employees in education, health care and culture. And he left his sophisticated, artistic mark on Parker Ranch, adorning his home, called Puuopelu , with the exquisite art and furniture pieces he had collected during his worldly travels.
Smart took his role as Waimea’s biggest landlord seriously. To assure orderly and controlled growth, which Smart recognized as inevitable, he devised a long-range plan called the Parker Ranch 2020 Plan. The Plan’s intent was to set aside sufficient lands to allow for uncongested growth and development. Controlling the growth would allow the community to maintain its rural “village” character yet provide future business, employment, and housing for residents. To fund ranching operations, Smart authorized the sale of low-yield pasture lands that are now the site of world-class luxury resorts along the Kohala Coast . The thriving community of Waikoloa Village is on former Parker Ranch land. In 1992, Hawaii county approved the rezoning of more than 580 acres of land for commercial, industrial and residential activities in conjunction with the 2020 Plan. Today, Parker Ranch Foundation Trust trustees are charged with continued implementation of Smart’s vision, the Parker Ranch 2020 Plan.
Smart’s death in 1992 marked an end to the Parker reign over the ranch. He left the Parker Ranch, complete with his art collection, in a trust to support healthcare, education and charitable giving through named beneficiaries in the Waimea community. The Parker Ranch Foundation Trust beneficiaries include Parker School, Hawaii Preparatory Academy, North Hawaii Community Hospital and The Richard Smart Fund of the Hawaii Community Foundation. The fund is currently being used to provide grants to Waimea organizations for increasing community and organizational capacity. It is also funding a special initiative to support Waimea Elementary School’s restructuring and change leadership efforts.