1970 Horatio Alger Award Winner
"Be able to defend every word, every phrase, and every sentence you write."
Born in Honolulu, the seventh of 11 children of poor, illiterate immigrants from China, Hiram Fong went to work at the age of four. His father had come to Hawaii at the age of 15 as a sugar cane plantation indentured laborer. His mother arrived at the age of 10 and worked as a maid. As a child, Fong's job was to pick mesquite beans that were sold as cattle feed. Later, he shined shoes, sold newspapers, caught and sold fish and crabs, delivered poi, and made 50 cents caddying 18 holes of golf.
Following graduation from high school, Fong was forced to postpone college for three years to work and help his mother and family. Once he entered college he supported himself by holding down as many as four part-time jobs. He worked as a bill collector, as a college correspondent for the Honolulu Advertiser newspaper, and as a guide for tourists visiting Oriental temples. He graduated with honors in three years from the University of Hawaii.
Fong worked for two years and saved $2,000 so that he could enter Harvard Law School. Upon his return home, he served 14 years in the Hawaii legislature, six of them as speaker. His tenure was interrupted by World War II, in which he served as judge advocate of the 7th Fighter Command of the 7th Air Force. Fong served as a retired colonel of the Air Force Reserve and was a member of the board of visitors of both the U. S. Naval Academy and the U. S. Military Academy.
After the war, Fong started his own law firm, Fong, Miho, Choy and Robinson. In 1959, when Hawaii became the 50th state, Fong became the first American of Asian descent to be elected to the U. S. Senate. He was reelected in 1964 and again in 1970. He retired in 1977 after serving five presidents. Twice, in 1964 and 1968, Fong was nominated as Hawaii's favorite son candidate for president.
Fong was also the developer of Senator Fong's Plantation and Gardens, a 725-acre track of lush tropical forests and exotic flowers that is a tourist attraction in Honolulu.
The recipient of many awards, Fong said of his Horatio Alger Award, "It is an incentive for one to do better." Other awards given to Fong include the Order of Brilliant Star with Grand Cordon from the Republic of China, and the Order of Diplomatic Service Merit, Gwanghwan Medal from the Republic of Korea.* Deceased