Hiram L. Fong Papers
About Hiram Fong (1906-2004)
Hiram Leong Fong was born on the island of Oʻahu in the Kalihi district of Honolulu on Oct. 15, 1906, the seventh of 11 children of Chinese immigrant parents Mr. and Mrs. Lum Fong. From an early age, he helped support his family, earning money by selling newspapers, shining shoes, and caddying on the golf course. After graduating from McKinley High School, he enrolled in the University of Hawaiʻi, where he served as editor of the student newspaper Ka Leo. A class of 1930 Phi Beta Kappa graduate, he received his law degree from Harvard in 1935. Returning to Honolulu, Fong embarked on a career in public service that would last for well over 40 years. Elected to the Territorial House in 1938, his political career was put on hold during World War II, but he was handily re-elected in 1946, serving in the Territorial House for 14 years, including six as Speaker of the House.
In addition to his public career, in 1942 Senator Fong established the law firm of Fong, Miho, and Robinson. But he is even better known as a founder and driving force behind one of Hawaiʻi‘s most successful economic huis: the Finance Factors family of companies, including Grand Pacific Life Insurance, and Finance Realty, one of the earliest developers of the Makakilo area of Leeward Oʻahu.
With the coming of statehood in 1959, Fong decided to run for the U.S. Senate, even though he wondered if he “would be considered too provincial, or too partisan.” At least, he thought, “it would allow my grandchildren and great-grandchildren to say at some future date that their grandfather and great-grandfather was a serious candidate.” Elected to three terms, Senator Fong went on to serve under five presidents, until his retirement in 1976. A stalwart Republican, the senator was highly regarded for his work on immigration and naturalization laws and policy, and for encouraging relations with the People’s Republic of China and other developing nations of Asia. Senator Fong was also known for providing quick responses to his constituents’ concerns, and his work in such areas as securing COLA increases for federal workers in Hawaiʻi and Alaska. Well thought of by colleagues from both parties, Democratic senator Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia remarked upon Fong’s retirement, “One can only speak of Hawaiʻi in superlatives. Hawaiʻi can, therefore, be proud that it has been represented so well by a man of superlatives, Sen. Hiram L. Fong.”
After “retirement” in 1976, Senator Fong remained active in business, as well as embarking on an ambitious new project: the transformation of 725 acres in Kahaluʻu into a garden, conservation site, and tourist attraction. Divided into five areas named after the presidents under whom he served, Senator Fong’s Plantation and Gardens stands as a living testament to one of the very few multimillionaires and public servants to find pleasure in a day of “pick and shovel work.”
The recipient of numerous honorary degrees, honors and awards nationally and internationally, Senator Fong has continued his long advocacy of his UH alma mater, donating his books, congressional papers, and financial support to the university. In 2002, Senator Fong received the UH Founders’ Lifetime Achievement Award and was honored by being the subject of the premier exhibit in the new addition of the University of Hawaiʻi Library.
Compiled by Stan Schab, Center for Biographical Research, University of Hawaiʻi, Sept. 20, 2002
About The Papers
When the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Library established its Hawaiʻi Congressional Papers Collection in the mid 1990s, Senator Hiram L. Fong was the second legislator to donate his papers. In August 1998, over 1000 boxes, crates and trunks of documents, photographs, videos, and memorabilia at the senator’s home were loaded on three trucks and delivered to UH for inventorying, fumigation, and preliminary processing. Along with the papers, Senator Fong also provided generous financial support towards their preservation and processing.
The bulk of the papers cover the years that Senator Fong served in Congress, from August 1959 to January 1977. Included in the collection are series of Washington office files, Hawaiʻi office files, Post Office and Civil Service Committee materials, campaign memorabilia, photographs, and political souvenirs. The papers also include a few professional and personal materials from his pre-Congressional life, such as Harvard Law School notes.
Approximately 80 boxes of books accompanied Senator 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 library collections of UH Mānoa. A gift book plate was designed for these incorporating the senator’s noted signature.
An exhibit honoring Senator Fong as a 2002 UH Founders’ Lifetime Achievement Award recipient was on display in Hamilton Library from June to mid-October 2003.
The papers were processed in 2003 and are open to researchers. Please consult the full Finding Aid for detailed listings.