|United States Senator|
August 21, 1959 - January 3, 1977
|Speaker of the Hawaii House of Representatives|
|Charles E. Kauhane|
|Member of the Hawaii House of Representatives|
from the 5th district
Yau Leong Fong
October 15, 1906
Honolulu, Hawaii Territory, U.S.
|Died||August 18, 2004 (aged 97)|
Kahaluu, Hawaii, U.S.
|Education||University of Hawaii, Manoa (BA)|
Harvard Law School (LLB)
|Occupation||Businessman, lawyer, politician|
|Branch/service||United States Army|
|Years of service||1942-1945|
|Unit|| United States Army Air Forces|
• Seventh Air Force
|Battles/wars||World War II|
Hiram Leong Fong (Chinese: ???; pinyin: ; Cantonese Yale: Kwong3 Yau5 Leung4), born Yau Leong Fong (October 15, 1906 - August 18, 2004), was an American businessman, lawyer, and politician from Hawaii. The son of illiterate Cantonese immigrants, he overcame poverty to become the first Asian-American United States Senator, serving from 1959 to 1977. In 1964, Fong became the first Asian-American to run for his party's nomination for President of the United States. He was the only Republican to ever hold a Senate seat from Hawaii and was the only Asian-American to seek the presidential nomination of the Republican Party until Bobby Jindal in the 2016 primaries.
Fong was born in the Honolulu neighborhood of Kalihi on the island of Oahu as the seventh of 11 children of Mr. and Mrs. Lum Fong. He was the son of Cantonese immigrants. He attended local public schools and graduated from McKinley High School in 1924.
In 1930, Fong obtained a degree from the University of Hawaii at Manoa and in 1935 obtained a law degree from Harvard Law School. He returned to Honolulu and worked in the Office of the Prosecuting Attorney of Honolulu. In 1938, Fong went into private legal practice and founded the firm of Fong, Miho, Choy and Robinson. In 1942, he changed his name to "Hiram". During World War II he served as a major in the United States Army Air Forces as a Judge Advocate, later retiring as a colonel from the United States Air Force Reserve.
In 1952, along with five other island families, Hiram Fong started Finance Factors, one of the first industrial and consumer loan companies, to service the growing minorities who were seeking to start new businesses and buy homes.
The same year he founded his law office, Fong entered elected political life as a member of the Hawaii Territorial House of Representatives where he became Speaker of the House from 1948 to 1954. During this time, he was one of the foremost leaders in the fight to make Hawaii a state. He was forced into retirement when the Democratic Party of Hawaii successfully ended a Hawaii Republican Party stronghold over the Hawaii Territorial Legislature by voting most Republican incumbents out of office. Fong founded several businesses after leaving the legislature.
Upon achieving statehood through the Admission Act of 1959, Hawaii returned Fong to elected office; he became one of its first United States Senators. He served alongside former Governor of Hawaii Oren E. Long, a Democrat and popular territorial leader.
He twice ran favorite son campaigns for the Republican presidential nomination, in 1964 and 1968. In 1964, he became the first Asian-American to receive votes for president at a major party convention, receiving the votes of the Hawaii and Alaska delegations. Fong was the first Hawaii-born individual to run for President of the United States.
In 1965, during debate on Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 Fong answered questions concerning the possible change in US cultural pattern by an influx of Asians:
"Asians represent six-tenths of 1 percent of the population of the United States ... with respect to Japan, we estimate that there will be a total for the first 5 years of some 5,391 ... the people from that part of the world will never reach 1 percent of the population .. .Our cultural pattern will never be changed as far as America is concerned." (U.S. Senate, Subcommittee on Immigration and Naturalization of the Committee on the Judiciary, Washington, D.C., Feb. 10, 1965, pp.71, 119.)
The papers of Hiram Fong were donated to the University of Hawaii at Manoa Library in August 1998 when over 1000 boxes, crates and trunks of documents, photographs, videos, and memorabilia at the senator's home were delivered to the University of Hawaii for inventorying, fumigation and preliminary processing. Along with the papers, Fong also provided generous financial support towards their preservation and processing.
The bulk of the papers cover the years that Fong served in Congress, from August 1959 to January 1977. Included in the collection are series of Washington office files, Hawaii office files, Post Office and Civil Service Committee (POCS) materials, campaign memorabilia, photographs, and political souvenirs. Also in the papers are a few professional and personal materials from his pre-Congressional life such as Harvard Law School notes.
Approximately 80 boxes of books accompanied Fong's papers, several dedicated to him for his important work on Senate committees such as the Post Office and Civil Service Committee. A few of the books were kept with the congressional collection but the majority were added to the book collections of the University of Hawaii at Manoa Library. A gift book plate was designed for these incorporating the senator's noted signature.
The papers were processed in 2003 by archivist Dee Hazelrigg, and are available to researchers in the Archives & Manuscripts Department by appointment. A Finding Aid, which provides detailed listings of the materials, is available at the Hiram L. Fong Papers web site.
Fong married Ellyn Lo in 1938; they had four children. After retiring from the Senate, Fong faced financial and legal difficulties, including several lawsuits with a son over the family's businesses that forced him and his wife to declare bankruptcy in 2003. They managed a botanical garden of 725 acres (293 ha) that was opened to the public in 1988.
|Party political offices|
|First|| Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from Hawaii
1959, 1964, 1970
|New seat|| U.S. Senator (Class 1) from Hawaii
Served alongside: Oren Long, Daniel Inouye
| Oldest Living United States Senator
(Sitting or Former)