Hiram Leong Fong (born Yau Leong Fong;[1] 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 Chinese-American and first Asian-American United States Senator, serving from 1959 to 1977.[2] At the 1964 Republican National Convention, Fong became the first Asian-American to receive delegate votes for his party's nomination for President of the United States. He is the only Republican to have ever served as a Senator from Hawaii.

Hiram Fong
Hiram Fong.jpg
United States Senator
from Hawaii
In office
August 21, 1959 – January 3, 1977
Preceded bySeat established
Succeeded bySpark Matsunaga
Speaker of the Hawaii House of Representatives
In office
Preceded byManuel Paschoal
Succeeded byCharles E. Kauhane
Member of the Hawaii House of Representatives
from the 5th district
In office
Personal details
Yau Leong Fong

(1906-10-15)October 15, 1906
Honolulu, Territory of Hawaii, U.S.
DiedAugust 18, 2004(2004-08-18) (aged 97)
Kahaluu, Hawaii, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
Spouse(s)Ellyn Lo (m. 1938)
EducationUniversity of Hawaii, Manoa (BA)
Harvard University (LLB)
OccupationBusinessman, lawyer, politician
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/service United States Army
Years of service1942–1945
RankUS-O4 insignia.svg Major
UnitUS Army Air Corps Hap Arnold Wings.svg United States Army Air Forces
 • Seventh Air Force
Battles/warsWorld War II
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese
Simplified Chinese

Early yearsEdit

Fong was born in the Honolulu neighborhood of Kalihi on the island of Oahu as the seventh of 11 children.[3] His father Fong Sau Howe migrated from Kwangtung Province in Qing dynasty China to the Hawaiian Kingdom in 1872 with nearly 45,000 other immigrants who would work on sugar plantations. 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 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".[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][4]

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 numbers of minorities who were seeking to start new businesses and buy homes.[5]

Political careerEdit

President Richard Nixon greeting Senator Fong in 1972

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.[6] 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.[1]

Upon achieving statehood through the Admission Act of 1959, Hawaii returned Fong to elected office; he became one of its first United States Senators.[7] He served alongside former Governor of Hawaii Oren E. Long, a Democrat and popular territorial leader.

Fong voted in favor of the Civil Rights Acts of 1960,[8] 1964,[9] and 1968,[10] as well as the 24th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution,[11] the Voting Rights Act of 1965,[12] and the confirmation of Thurgood Marshall to the U.S. Supreme Court.[13] Fong supported both the Vietnam War and President Nixon during the Watergate scandal.[7]

Senator Fong was booed by an audience for defending George Romney, Secretary of Housing and Development, in the wake of a real estate industry scandal.[14]

He was twice honored as Hawaii's favorite son at the Republican National Convention in 1964 and 1968.[15] 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.[16]

In 1965, during debate on Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 Fong answered questions concerning the possible change in U.S. cultural patterns by an influx of Asians:

"Asians represent six-tenths of 1 percent of the population of the United States ... concerning 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.)[17]


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.[6]

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.[6]

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.[6]

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.[6]

Personal lifeEdit

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.[3]

Fong was a Congregationalist and was buried in Nuuanu Memorial Park and Mortuary.[18]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e f Nakaso, Dan (August 18, 2004). "Hiram Fong dead at 97". Honolulu Advertiser. Archived from the original on September 10, 2004. Retrieved July 20, 2019.
  2. ^ Bernstein, Adam (August 19, 2004). "Hiram Fong Dies; One of First Hawaiian Senators". The Washington Post. p. B6. Archived from the original on May 25, 2017. Retrieved July 20, 2019.
  3. ^ a b Biographical sketch senatorfong.com
  4. ^ "Fong Garden biography". Archived from the original on May 24, 2010. Retrieved May 20, 2020.
  5. ^ "Senator Hiram L. Fong - first Asian American to serve in the United States Senate". www.senatorfong.com. Retrieved May 20, 2020.
  6. ^ a b c d e "Hiram L. Fong Papers – University of Hawaii Manoa Library Website". Retrieved May 20, 2020.
  7. ^ a b Arakawa, Linda (August 19, 2004). "First Asian in U.S. Senate broke barriers". The Honolulu Advertiser. Archived from the original on September 19, 2004. Retrieved July 20, 2019.
  8. ^ "HR. 8601. PASSAGE OF AMENDED BILL. -- Senate Vote #284 -- Apr 8, 1960". GovTrack.us. Retrieved May 20, 2020.
  9. ^ "HR. 7152. PASSAGE. -- Senate Vote #409 -- Jun 19, 1964". GovTrack.us. Retrieved May 20, 2020.
  10. ^ "TO PASS H.R. 2516, A BILL TO PROHIBIT DISCRIMINATION IN ... -- Senate Vote #346 -- Mar 11, 1968". GovTrack.us. Retrieved May 20, 2020.
  12. ^ "TO PASS S. 1564, THE VOTING RIGHTS ACT OF 1965. -- Senate Vote #78 -- May 26, 1965". GovTrack.us. Retrieved May 20, 2020.
  14. ^ Asbury, Edith (May 2, 1972). "Senators Told of 'Blockbusting' In a Financial Conspiracy Here" (PDF). New York Times. Retrieved October 10, 2014.
  15. ^ Senator Hiram Fong Exhibit Archived September 18, 2009, at the Wayback Machine, Hawaii Congressional Papers Collection, University of Hawaii.
  16. ^ "Senator Hiram L. Fong - first Asian American to serve in the United States Senate". senatorfong.com. Retrieved May 20, 2020.
  17. ^ "The Legacy of the 1965 Immigration Act". CIS.org. Retrieved May 20, 2020.
  18. ^ United States Congress. "Hiram Fong (id: F000245)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.

External linksEdit

Party political offices
First Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from Hawaii
(Class 1)

1959, 1964, 1970
Succeeded by
U.S. Senate
New seat U.S. Senator (Class 1) from Hawaii
Served alongside: Oren Long, Daniel Inouye
Succeeded by
Honorary titles
Preceded by Oldest Living United States Senator
(Sitting or Former)

Succeeded by