-- Biographical sketch

-- Chronology

-- Awards and Honors

-- University of Hawaii Endowment


-- Personal Stories

-- Genealogy

-- Wife Ellyn Lo Fong

-- Becoming American Video

Business & Political Endeavors

-- Senate Tribute booklet

-- Finance Factors History Video

-- Hawaii Congressional Papers

-- Senator Fong's Plantation & Gardens


-- Funeral

---- Eulogies

-- Letters

---- Newspaper tributes

---- Senator Akaka

---- President G. W. Bush

---- President G. Bush

Photo Gallery

-- Senator Fong's History

-- Friends and Family

-- Memorabilia

Articles / Resources


Senator Hiram L. Fong

First Asian American elected to the U.S. Senate

Biographical Sketch




Hiram Leong Fong was born in the Kalihi District of Honolulu, Hawaii, on October 15, 1906, the seventh of eleven children of Mr. and Mrs. Lum Fong. His parents were both immigrants from Gwangdung Province, China . His father arrived in Hawaii at age 15 as a sugar cane plantation indentured laborer; and his mother arrived at the age of 10 and was employed as maidservant. He married the former Ellyn Lo of Honolulu in 1938. She is a graduate of the University of Hawaii with a Bachelor of Education degree and a former schoolteacher. The Fongs have four children: Hiram, Jr., Rodney, Merie-Ellen Gushi, and Marvin Allan. Senator and Mrs. Fong have ten grandchildren and two great granddaughters.


Sen. Fong was a graduate of Kalihi-Waena Grammar School and McKinley High School; and he also attended St. Louis College (a high school), all in Honolulu. He graduated with honors after three years of intensive study from the University of Hawaii with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1930. At the University of Hawaii , he was Editor of the University newspaper Ka Leo, associate editor of the yearbook Ka Palapala, adjutant of the ROTC, an oratorical contest winner, and held membership on the debating, volleyball, and rifle teams. He was a member of the Hawaii Civilian Rifle Team at the National Matches at Camp Perry , Ohio in 1929, his first trip away from Hawaii . He was a member of Phi Beta Kappa. Sen. Fong studied law at Harvard University in Cambridge , Massachussets where he received his Doctor of Jurisprudence degree in 1935. Because of lack of funds, his education was interrupted twice, for three years after high school, and for two years after University graduation. He worked his way through both high school and college.

Sen. Fong was the recipient of eleven honorary degrees: Doctor of Laws degrees from University of Hawaii (1935), Tufts University (1960), Lafayette College (1960), Lynchburg College (1970), Lincoln University (1971), University of Guam (1974), St. John’s University (1975), California Western School of Law (1976), Tung Wu (Soochow) University and the China Academy, both of Taiwan (1978), and Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Long Island University (1968).


From age four to seven , Sen. Fong picked algarroba (mesquite) beans for sale as cattle feed at ten cents a 30-lb bag. From age seven to ten, he shined shoes and sold newspapers on the streets of Honolulu . Later, he caught and sold fish and crabs, delivered poi, and caddied for 25 cents a nine-hole round, earning $1.50 on a big Sunday. Working his way through college, he held jobs simultaneously as a collector of overdue bills, as a college correspondent for the Honolulu Advertiser newspaper, and as a guide for tourists visiting Oriental temples.

From 1924 to 1927, he worked as a clerk in the supply Department of the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard. From 1930 to 1932, he was Chief Clerk of the Suburban Water System of the City and County of Honolulu .

Sen. Fong founded the cosmopolitan law firm of Fong (Chinese), Miho (Japanese), Choy (Korean), and Robinson (Caucasian-Hawaiian). He resigned from the firm after taking office as a United States Senator.

As a businessman, he was one of the Founders and former Chairman of the Board of the following companies: Finance Factors, Finance Securities, Finance Factors Building , and Market City Shopping Center . At the time of his death, he was Chairman/CEO of the Board of Finance Enterprises, Chairman of the Board of Finance Investment, and Kalani Holdings; was Chairman Emeritus of Finance Insurance and Finance Realty; was President of Finance Factors Foundation, Hiram Leong Fong and Ellyn Lo Fong Foundation, and Ocean View Cemetery, Limited. He was Chairman of the Board of Highway Construction Company, Limited, and held directorships in several other companies. He was also an Honorary Consultant to China Airlines and an Honorary Member of the Board of Directors of Lincoln University Foundation.


He established Senator Fong’s Plantation and Gardens in 1988, a privately owned visitor attraction with 725 acres of lush tropical forests and natural scenery with landscaped gardens of exotic flowers. Formerly a banana plantation, it now has over 70 different edible fruits and nuts growing in orchards with a panoramic view of Windward Oahu, the Koolau Mountains, and Kaneohe Bay . It is located in Windward Oahu, about 40 minutes from downtown Honolulu . Sen. Fong’s Plantation and Gardens received a Kahili Award as the outstanding attraction in Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau’s 1999 Keep It Hawaii competition.


Sen. Fong was a World War II veteran of the U. S. Army Air Corps (1942-1944). He entered with the rank of 1st Lieutenant and was promoted to Major serving as Judge Advocate of the 7th Fighter Command of the 7th Air Force. He served as a Reserve Officer of the U. S. Army for over 20 years. He retired as a Colonel, U. S. Air Force Reserves, and a member of the Kau-Tom Post of the American Legion, and Post 1540 of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. He was designated a Member of the Board of Visitors of the U. S. Military Academy at West Point , in March, 1971. In April, 1974 he was appointed a Member of the Board of Visitors of the U. S. Naval Academy at Annapolis .


Sen. Fong was active in many service and civic organizations, including the Kalihi Community Improvement Club; the Army, Navy and Civilian Young Men’s Christian Associations; Downtown Improvement Club; Parent-Teachers Associations; Boy Scouts; Chinese American Club; Warriors of the Pacific; Commercial Associates; University of Hawaii Alumni Association; Harvard Club of Hawaii; Chinese Civic Club; Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii; Chinese Chamber of Commerce, and other similar groups. He was a Founding Board Member of the Aloha Liberty Foundation in October, 1985.


Sen. Fong was an Elector for the Hall of Fame; recipient of national award for outstanding service to brotherhood from the National Conference of Christians and Jews, 1960; Citation for Meritorious Service from the National Association of Retired Civil Employees, 1963; Horatio Alger Award for outstanding success in law, business, and public service despite humble beginnings (selected by ballots distributed among 500 U. S. colleges), the first citizen of Hawaii to receive this award, 1970; citation for outstanding public service by the Japanese American Citizens League, 1970; Social and Rehabilitation Service Medallion for work on behalf of disabled citizens, 1970; Golden Plate Award by the American Academy of Achievement, 1971; Organization of Chinese Americans, Inc., award for outstanding services to the Nation, 1973; “Certificate of Award” for his “example of good citizenship”, April 1974, from the National Society, Daughters of Founders and Patriots of America; Certificate of Service for outstanding contribution to the promotion of understanding and unity among the peoples of the Pacific-Asian World, October 1974, from the Pacific Asian Studies Association; “Order of Brilliant Star with Grand Cordon”, presented by Ambassador James Shen in Washington, D. C., in behalf of the Republic of China, August 27, 1976; “Order of Diplomatic Service Merit, Gwanghwan Medal” the highest diplomatic award, presented by Consul General Yoon Hee Lee in Honolulu, Hawaii, in behalf of the Republic of Korea, March 22, 1977; United States-Asia Institute 1981 Achievement Award as the outstanding Asian American in the field of public service in America, December 3, 1981; Honorary Co-Chairman, McKinley High School Foundation, 1989; Citizen Among Citizens Award, Boys & Girls Clubs of Hawaii, 1991; Distinguished Alumnus Award, University of Hawaii Alumni Association, 1991; member of the Aloha Chapter Lambda Alpha International, 1991; Kulia I Ka Nu’u award from the Public Schools of Hawaii Foundation, 1991; Junior Achievement Hawaii Business Hall of Fame 1995; Dedication and Support Service Award McKinley Foundation, 1955; the University of Hawaii Colleges of Arts and Sciences Hiram L. Fong Endowment in Arts and Sciences, 1955; recipient of the national “Outstanding Citizen Achievement” award which recognizes the political, social and civil rights achievements of Chinese and Asian Americans, from the Organization of Chinese Americans, Inc., 1996; named Model Chinese Father of the Year, by the United Chinese Society, Hawaii; 1996; recipient Ha’aheo Award from the American Board of Trial Advocates, Hawaii Chapter, 1997; recipient Distinguished Service Award, Organization of Chinese American Women Biennial National Conference, 1999; recipient Outstanding Chinese Citizen 2001, United Chinese Society 2001; and recipient Founders’ Lifetime Achievement Award, University of Hawaii Alumni Association, 2002.


Sen. Fong was Deputy Attorney for the City and County of Honolulu from 1935-1938. He also served fourteen years in the Legislature of the Territory of Hawaii 1938-1954, including four years (1944-1948) as Vice Speaker of the House of Representatives and six years (1948-1954) as Speaker. He was Vice-President of the Hawaii State Constitutional Convention in 1950 and an ardent advocate of Statehood.

He was elected a Delegate from Hawaii to the Republican National Conventions in Chicago in 1952 and 1960; San Francisco in 1956 and 1964; and Miami in 1968 and 1972. In 1964 and in 1968, his name was placed in nomination as favorite son candidate from Hawaii for the office of President of the United States .


Elected to the United States Senate on July 28, 1959 , he was sworn into office on August 24, 1959 as the first American of Asian ancestry to be elected to the United States Senate. The Senior Senator from Hawaii , he was re-elected on November 3, 1964 and on November 3, 1970 . He retired January 2, 1977 .

As a Republican Senator Fong won 53.03% of the votes cast for U. S. Senator in the l964 election. His two opponents received 46.3% and 0.6%. This was in the face of a Democratic Presidential landslide, where the Democratic nominee, Lyndon B. Johnson, swept Hawaii with 78.8% of the votes cast for President against 21.2% for the Republican nominee Barry Goldwater.

In 1964, Senator Fong’s election set an all-time record in Senatorial elections. Running 31.8% ahead of his Party’s candidate for President, Senator Fong broke the previous record held by the late Democratic Senator Harry F. Byrd, who ran 30.4% ahead of Democratic Presidential Adlai Stevenson in 1952. Senator Fong had a Democratic opponent, U. S. House of Representative Tom Gill and Lawrence Domine, Non-Partisan, in his re-election bid, whereas Senator Byrd did not have a Republican opponent.

Senator Fong also set a new record by surpassing that of the previous front-runner with an opponent for a Senate seat: Senator William E. Borah, who ran 28.9% ahead of Republican Presidential candidate Alf M. Landon in 1936.

Senator Fong was a Member of the following Senate Committees:

POST OFFICE & CIVIL SERVICE (Highest ranking Republican)

Ex-Officio Member of all Subcommittees:

                        Civil Service Policies & Practices

                        Compensation and Employment Benefits

                        Postal Operation

                        Census and Statistics

APPROPRIATIONS (Fourth ranking Republican)


                        Agriculture and Related Agencies (highest ranking Republican)

                        Defense (fourth ranking Republican)

                        HUD-Independent Agencies (third ranking Republican)

                        Labor, Health, Education, Welfare and Related Agencies

                                                (third ranking Republican)

                        State, Justice, Commerce, The Judiciary and Related Agencies

                                                (second ranking Republican)

                        Treasury, Postal Service and General Government

                                    (Ex-Officio on Post Office items – third ranking Republican)

JUDICIARY (Second Ranking Republican)


                        Antitrust & Monopoly (second ranking Republican

                        Constitutional Amendments (highest ranking Republican)

                        Constitutional Rights (third ranking Republican)

                        Immigration & Naturalization (highest ranking Republican)

                        Juvenile Delinquency (third ranking Republican)

                        Patents, Trademarks & Copyrights (second ranking Republican)

                        Refugees and Escapees (highest ranking Republican)

SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON AGING (highest ranking Republican)

Ex-Officio Member of all Subcommittees:

                        Housing for the Elderly

                        Employment and Retirement Incomes

                        Federal, State, and Community Services

                        Consumer Interests of the Elderly

                        Health of the Elderly

                        Long-Term Care


He was appointed by Vice President Rockefeller in January, 1975, to serve on the Commission on Revision of the Federal Court Appellate System.

Sen. Fong represented the United States as a Delegate to the 150th Anniversary celebration of Ar gentina ’s Independence in 1960. He was a Member of the U. S. Delegation to the Canada-United States Inter-parliamentary Conference, 1961, 1965, 196, and 1968. U. S. Observer at the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Meeting in Wellington, New Zealand, November, 1965. U. S. Delegate to the 55th Inter-parliamentary Union World Conference in Tehran , Iran , September, 1966. U. S. Delegate to the 61st Inter-parliamentary Union World Conference in Tokyo , 1974. Delegate to the Ditchley Foundation Conference in London (Oxfordshire), England , January, 1967. U. S. Delegate to the Mexico-U. S. Inter-parliamentary Conference in Honolulu , April, 1968. Presidentially-appointed Member of U. S. Congressional Delegation to People’s Republic of China , 1974. In October 1974, Senator Fong made a fact-finding and inspection tour of the U. S. State and Defense Department installations in Japan , Okinawa , Korea , and the Republic of China as well as the Island of Guam and the Trust Territory of the Pacific. In April, 1975, he was a member of the official U. S. Delegation selected by President Gerald R. Ford and headed by Vice President Nelson A. Rockefeller to attend funeral ceremonies in Taiwan conducted for the late President Chiang Kai-shek. He was invited to return to Taiwan for memorial services for President Chiang in April, 1978.

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