Joe Bee Xiong

Joe Bee Xiong (August 10, 1961 - March 31, 2007) was a Hmong American politician and activist who served as a member of the Eau Claire City Council. Xiong was the first Hmong person in United States history to be elected to municipal government[1][2] and a well-known advocate for Hmong culture and causes.

Joe Bee Xiong
Eau Claire City Council Member
In office
1996–2000
Member of the Wisconsin Juvenile Justice Commission
In office
2003–2006
GovernorJim Doyle
Personal details
Born(1961-08-10)August 10, 1961
Laos, Southeast Asia
DiedMarch 31, 2007(2007-03-31) (aged 45)
Laos, Southeast Asia
NationalityHmong
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Ta Moua Xiong
Alma materMount Senario College
Cardinal Stritch University

Early life and careerEdit

Xiong was born in a Hmong village in northern Laos in 1961. Xiong's father was a soldier for the CIA-supported Hmong leader Vang Pao, and Xiong was a child soldier for Americans in Laos during the Vietnam War from ages 12–14. In the late 1970s, Xiong traveled with his family to a refugee camp in Thailand. He immigrated to the United States in 1979 and came to Eau Claire in 1980. Upon his arrival to Eau Claire, Xiong could not speak any English. Xiong graduated from Eau Claire Memorial High School at the age of 21 and went on to gain a certificate in computer science from the Chippewa Valley Technical College. Xiong graduated from Mount Senario College with a bachelor's degree in criminal justice and later received his master's degree in business management from Cardinal Stritch University.[3]

Xiong's professional career began working for the city of Eau Claire as a reserve police officer and as a social worker for Eau Claire County. Xiong served two terms on the Eau Claire City Council, where he focused on community partnerships. In 2004, he ran to represent the 68th Assembly District in the Wisconsin State Assembly against Incumbent Terry Moulton. He received 14,093 votes and Moulton received 16,662 votes. Xiong worked closely with Congressman Ron Kind to investigate human rights abuses in Laos and Southeast Asia.

Personal life and deathEdit

Xiong lived in Eau Claire with his wife and had two sons and six daughters. In addition to his civic activism and public service, Xiong was a well-known folk artist in the Hmong community.[4] Xiong was a Qeej Master, learning to play two years after the end of the Vietnam War. Xiong played for traditional funerals and ceremonies. As well as the qeej, Xiong played several other instruments including reedless end-blown flutes, side-blown flutes with copper reeds, and the jaw harp. Xiong performed with these instruments at new world Hmong seasonal competitions and at cultural events, including the 1998 Smithsonian Folklife Festival.

Xiong died on March 31, 2007 due to heart complications while visiting his home country of Laos. Thousands of people mourned Xiong's death during his three-day-long traditional Hmong funeral.

LegacyEdit

Xiong was a subject of a PBS Documentary about his life and public service.[5] In April 2007, the Wisconsin Legislature passed a joint resolution commemorating the life of public service of Joe Bee Xiong.[6] The City of Eau Claire renamed the street which Xiong lived on to be "Xiong Boulevard".

NotesEdit

  1. ^ Calder, Kent E. Asia in Washington: Exploring the Penumbra of Transnational Power. Brookings Institution Press. p. 112.
  2. ^ Zhao, Xiaojian. Asian Americans: An Encyclopedia of Social, Cultural, Economic, and Political History. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 1211.
  3. ^ Yamauchi, Craig. "Vets Remember -- Joe Bee Xiong, Capt. Xiong & Capt. Chang". Chippewa Valley Community Television.
  4. ^ "Joe Bee Xiong - Hmong Traditional Music". Wisconsin Arts Board.
  5. ^ "Joe Bee Xiong - Special". Public Broadcasting Service (PBS).
  6. ^ "2007 ASSEMBLY JOINT RESOLUTION 47" (PDF). State of Wisconsin.