navigation bar Houghton Mifflin Social Studies United States History: Early Years
Biographies Unit Biographies

Hiram Fong 1906-2004
First Asian American Senator

Hiram Fong grew up in Honolulu, Hawaii. He began picking beans when he was only four years old to help support his family. Fong also sold newspapers, shined shoes, and worked as a golf caddy when he was a boy. A golf caddy is a person who carries a player's golf clubs.

Fong began working in Hawaii's government in 1938. At that time, Hawaii was a U.S. territory, but not a state. Fong believed that Hawaiians should be able to take part in making laws for the United States government, just as other Americans could. Fong began speaking out in favor of Hawaiian statehood. In 1959, Hawaii became the fiftieth state. Voters elected Fong to be one of Hawaii's first two senators. He became the first Asian American in the United States Senate.

As a senator, Hiram Fong supported equal rights. For instance, he wanted the laws about immigrants to be fairer. He wanted to improve conditions for workers in factories and businesses. He also believed that women and men should be paid the same for doing the same job. In a lifetime of hard work, Fong found more than personal success. His work helped millions of people.

Comprehension Check

What did Hiram Fong begin doing in 1938?

Critical Thinking

Why do you think Hiram Fong wanted Hawaiians to take part in making U.S. laws?