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Hiram Fong: Political and Life History Essay

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Updated: Oct 20th, 2020

Introduction

Hiram Fong, an ardent politician and business man, was one of the famous people from US minority groups who participated in active politics when America was bedeviled with racism, limited political space, and partisan politics that jeopardized social integration. His sheer hard work enabled him to establish a large business empire, get educated in Harvard University, and participate in active politics. Fang was among the American heroes who played a key role in opening democratic space and promoting civil rights in United States of America.

Hiram Fong’s early life background

Hiram Leong Fong was known as a politician cum businessman. He was born in 1906 in Honolulu, Hawaii, USA. His parents were immigrants from China. Both of Hiram’s parents were laborers in a sugar plantation. In order to assist his large family, Hiram worked as a shoe shiner, golf caddy, and newspaper vendor. While in Honolulu, he studied in Kalihi Waena Grammar school and later on moved to McKinley high school. In his early adulthood, Hiram lacked enough money to join college. As a result, he worked as a clerk in the Pearl Harbor naval shipyard for three years in order to save sufficient funds for higher education.

He joined the University of Hawaii and within three years, he graduated with honors. While studying at the higher institution of learning, he engaged in part time jobs so that he could get money to cover university expenses. In addition, he played volleyball, joined debating team, and served as an editor of the University Newspaper. After graduating, Hiram’s wish was to join a law school but again, his ambitions were curtailed by lack of money to pay his tuition fees. He worked in Suburban water system for two years and after saving enough money, he enrolled in Harvard law School in 1932.In 1935, he graduated and returned to Honolulu where he was employed as a city clerk and after a short period, he was promoted to deputy city attorney (Arakawa, 2004).

Early Career

In 1935, Hiram founded a law firm consisting of Japanese, Chinese, Caucasian, and Korean partners. The firm was called Fong, Miho, Choy and Robinson law firm. This firm, consisting of multicultural partners, was the first of its type in Honolulu and was highly successful. From his earning’s, Hiram invested heavily in businesses to become a self made millionaire. Hiram was elected to Hawaii’s territorial House of Representatives in 1938 through a progressive Republican Party ticket. In the same year, he married Ellyn Lo, in Honolulu.

Hiram’s election victory was a significant step for Chinese Americans and other minority groups because it assisted in loosening the Hawaiian political stranglehold by plantation holders and European Americans elites. Although he had much political clout in his homeland, his political progress was hindered by the Second World War. He left politics and joined the military as a Judge advocate known as “JAG” in military circles. He served in the 7th fighter command of the Army Air Corps as a Major. After the war, he returned to Honolulu and resumed his duties in Hawaii’s territorial House of Representatives (Nakaso, 2004).

In an extraordinary step for republicans, Hiram formed an alliance with a major and prominent labor union, The International Longshoreman’s and Warehouseman’s Union (ILWU).The influence of the labor union enabled Fong to be elected speaker of Hawaii’s territorial House of Representatives in 1948.He served as a speaker for three terms before being defeated in 1954 elections (Arakawa,2004).

Statehood and the senate

Hiram remained politically active even after losing his position as a speaker in Hawaii’s territorial House of Representatives. He served as a republican delegate in 1952 and 1956.He continued expanding and diversifying his business investments and in 1952, he established Finance Factors Limited. Through exemplary management of his own assets his businesses were worth several million dollars.

Although Fong performed well in business, his principle interest was statehood for Hawaii, which was eventually attained in 1959. He contested against Frank F.Fasi, a democrat, and through the support of labor unions and his personal success, he won the election by 9000 votes. In August 21, 1959 when Hawaii was officially admitted as the 50th State of United States of America, Hiram and his democrat colleagues Daniel Inouye and Oren Long were sworn in as Hawaii’s first delegations of the congress. Through a coin flip with Oren Long, Fong was granted the status of a senior senator thus achieving his lifelong dream for both his state and himself (Morgan, 2009).

In his first term as a senator, Hiram served in the public works committee and the committee on insular and interior affairs. After a short time, Hiram became a prominent and leading voice in the Republic party’s moderate wing. He supported legislations on issues that supported education programs, civil rights amendments, and reforms in civil service. As such, he often voted with the democrats.

However, in matters affecting foreign policy, he always supported his party’s conservative majority. His moderate stance on controversial issues enabled him to retain his seat in 1964.He remained moderate on domestic issues but took a radical stance on foreign affairs. In 1965, he backed the voting Rights Acts proposed by President Lyndon Johnson and played a key role in eradicating immigration restrictions imposed on Asians.

In addition, he supported the proposal by Johnson aimed at establishing a special administration for the aging population. Other success stories by Fong included support for Anti-Ballistic missile system, supersonic transport, Equal Rights Amendment, and he was a key opponent of the controversial forced busing whose goal was to attain school integration (Arakawa, 2004).

Hiram’s failures included his support for Vietnam War that put him in trouble with Asian Americans, bribery scandal involving his aides, and support for large defense budgets. The bribery scandal tarnished his name to an extent that he declined to vie for a senate seat in 1976 (Nakaso, 2004).

Riches and retirement

In 1977, after retiring from active politics, Fong settled in his 725-acre garden in Oahu, one of Hawaiian Islands. He engaged in farming and continued to run his vast business empire. By 1993, Finance Factor Limited has attained a tremendous growth in its sales to $44.47 million. He founded three charitable organizations from a portion of his fortune. In addition, he donated $100,000 per annum for local development and other causes (Arakawa, 2004).

In conclusion, Hiram Fong is considered as a hero in politics and business who played a key role in establishing a democratic and just society in America. His contribution to the bills tabled in the senate enabled him to be one of the most celebrated reformists. In addition, his business acumen placed him as a role model to those who aspire to be entrepreneurs and wealth creators.

References

Arakawa, L.(2004). First Asian in U.S. Senate broke barriers. Honolulu Advertiser, 123, 4-5.

Morgan, E. (2009). American Heroes: Profiles of Men and Women Who Shaped Early America. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.

Nakaso, D. (2004). Hiram Fong dead at 97. Honolulu Advertiser, 122, 2-3.

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