Deaths Elsewhere

Deaths Elsewhere

August 20, 2004

Hiram L. Fong, 97, a son of immigrants who overcame poverty to become a millionaire businessman and the first Asian-American elected to the U.S. Senate, died Wednesday.

Mr. Fong, a Republican, died at home in Honolulu with his wife, Ellyn, and daughter Merie-Ellen Fong Gushi at his side, said Maureen Lichter, spokeswoman for Finance Factors, a financial company he founded. The cause of death is unknown.

Once a shoeshine boy, Mr. Fong rose from the slums of Honolulu to the U.S. Senate, where he served almost 18 years. He also served as president of nine companies. Mr. Fong was elected one of Hawaii's first two senators in 1959, and remains the only Republican senator the state has had. He was re-elected twice and retired in 1977.

Civil rights were a focus of Mr. Fong's Senate career. His amendment to a civil rights bill required auditors at polling places to ensure minority voting rights, he said. Mr. Fong also co-sponsored a 1965 bill ensuring Asians would be allowed to immigrate in similar numbers as people from other continents.

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