Former Sen. Fong Dies at Age 97

Posted August 19, 2004 at 1:22pm

Former Sen. Hiram Fong (R-Hawaii) died from kidney failure Wednesday in Honolulu. He was 97. Fong, the only Republican to represent the Aloha State in the Senate, retired in 1977 after joining Hawaii’s first Congressional delegation 1959, when the islands achieved statehood.

Fong, a son of poor Chinese immigrants, was also the first Asian-American to serve in the Senate.

He ultimately earned a law degree from Harvard University, changed his name to Hiram from his birth name of Yau Leong, and became a millionaire businessman who ran nine companies, including Finance Enterprises.

He was born in Honolulu, attended public schools and began working at the age of four.

Fong served in World War II, as Speaker of the Territorial House of Representatives, and as a delegate to six GOP conventions.

— Nicole Duran