Hiram Fong

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Hiram Fong
Hiram Fong.jpg
United States Senator
from Hawaii
In office
August 21, 1959 – January 3, 1977
Preceded by (none)
Succeeded by Spark Matsunaga
Personal details
Born Yau Leong Fong
(1906-10-15)October 15, 1906
Honolulu, Hawaii
Died August 18, 2004(2004-08-18) (aged 97)
Kahaluu, Hawaii
Resting place Oahu Cemetery
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Ellyn Lo
Children 4
Alma mater University of Hawaii
Harvard Law School, 1853
Religion Congregationalist
Military service
Service/branch US Army Air Corps Hap Arnold Wings.svg United States Army Air Forces
Years of service 1942–1945
Rank US-O4 insignia.svg Major
Unit Hawaiian Air Force
Battles/wars World War II

Hiram Leong Fong (Chinese: ; pinyin: Kuàng Yǒuliáng; Cantonese Yale: Kwong3 Yau5 Leung4), born Yau Leong Fong[1] (October 15, 1906 – August 18, 2004), was an American businessman and politician from Hawaii. He is most notable for his service as Republican United States Senator from 1959 to 1977, and for being the first Asian American and Chinese American to be elected as such. In 1964, Fong became the first Asian American to run for his party's nomination for President of the United States. To date, he is the only Republican to ever hold a Senate seat from Hawaii and the only Asian American to actively seek the presidential nomination of the Republican Party. He would be followed by Patsy Mink, also from Hawaii, who sought the nomination of the Democratic Party in 1972.

Early years

Fong was born in the Honolulu neighborhood of Kalihi on the island of Oahu as the seventh of 11 children of father Fong Sau Howe and mother Fong Lum Shee. He attended local public schools and graduated from McKinley High School in 1924.[1]

In 1930, Fong obtained a degree from the University of Hawaii at Manoa and in 1935 obtained a law degree from Harvard University. 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".[1] 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.[1][2]

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.[3]

Political years

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 front most 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.[1]

Upon achieving statehood through the Admission Act of 1959, Hawaii returned Fong to elected office becoming one of its first United States Senators.[4] He served alongside former Governor of Hawaii Oren E. Long, a Democrat and popular territorial leader.

Fong sought civil rights legislation in the Senate and supported both the Vietnam War and President Nixon during the Watergate scandal.[4]

Senator Fong was booed by a hearing audience for defending George Romney, Secretary of Housing and Development, in the wake of a real estate industry scandal.[5]

He twice ran favorite son campaigns for the Republican presidential nomination, in 1964 and 1968.[6] 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.


The Papers of Hiram L. 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, Sen. Fong also provided generous financial support towards their preservation and processing.

The bulk of the papers cover the years that Sen. 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 Sen. 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 Dorothy "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 Sen. Hiram L. Fong Papers web site.

Personal life

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.[1] They managed a botanical garden of 725 acres (293 ha) that was opened to the public in 1988.[7] He worked in the garden until a week before his death.

Fong was a Congregationalist, and was buried in Oahu Cemetery.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Nakaso, Dan. "Hiram Fong dead at 97" Honolulu Advertiser, 18 August 2004.
  2. Fong Garden biography
  3. http://www.senatorfong.com/finance_factors.html
  4. 4.0 4.1 Arakawa, Linda. "First Asian in U.S. Senate broke barriers" Honolulu Advertiser, 19 August 2004.
  5. Asbury, Edith (Senators Told of 'Blockbusting' In a Financial Conspiracy Here). "Senators Told of 'Blockbusting' In a Financial Conspiracy Here". New York Times. Retrieved 10 October 2014. Check date values in: |date= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Senator Hiram Fong Exhibit, Hawaii Congressional Papers Collection, University of Hawaii.
  7. Biographical sketch senatorfong.com

External links

United States Senate
Preceded by
U.S. Senator (Class 1) from Hawaii
Served alongside: Oren E. Long, Daniel Inouye
Succeeded by
Spark Matsunaga
Honorary titles
Preceded by
Strom Thurmond
Oldest living U.S. Senator
June 26, 2003 – August 18, 2004
Succeeded by
Clifford Hansen