You Chung Hong
First Chinese American Attorney in California
You Chung Hong was born May 4, 1898 in San Francisco, California. His father came to the U.S. from China, during California's railroad building days. Y.C. Hong was five years old when his father passed away. His mother survived many years of hardship and deprivation, but was able to eke out a living supporting Y.C. and his younger sister, Helen. In 1938, Y.C. Hong erected a gateway following the Chinese architectural tradition dedicating it to his mother. For over sixty years, this memorial on North Broadway has served as the gateway to L.A.'s Chinatown, of which Y.C. was one of the founders. The gate has become synonymous with and a symbol for Los Angeles Chinatown. Hong attended Lowell High School of San Francisco before moving to Los Angeles. He worked his way through school, teaching English to his less advantaged countrymen during the evenings of his high school days. He became an official interpreter for the U.S. Immigration Service from 1918 to 1928.
Hong earned his law degree from the University of Southern California School of Law in 1925. Hong distinguished himself by passing the California Bar Examination before graduation and was admitted to the practice of law on March 26, 1923. Considered the dean of lawyers of Chinese descent, Y.C. Hong was the first person of Chinese ancestry to be admitted to the practice of law in the state of California by examination. He was admitted to practice before the United States Supreme Court on November 7, 1933. Hong married Mabel Chin-Qong of Portland, Oregon, a graduate of Oregon State University, on March 28, 1931. They had two sons: Nowland Chin Hong and Roger-Sai-keung Hong. Nowland is a graduate of Pomona College and the University of Southern California School of Law, former Assistant City Attorney and Chief Counsel to the Board of Harbor Commissioners for the City of Los Angeles; he is now in private practice. Roger received his Bachelor's and Master's degrees from the University of Southern California, and is now a practicing architect and planner, and a member of the American Institute of Architects.
Y.C. achieved personal success and renown as a skillful professional in bringing about many landmark judicial decisions and legislative changes which removed many prejudicial barriers that had previously handicapped people of Chinese ancestry, and indeed, of all cultures. He was the first Chairman of the Board of Directors of The Chinese Times, which has been publishing a daily newspaper since 1924, with a nationwide circulation. Hong spoke on behalf of C.A.C.A. before the Senate and House Immigration Committee in 1929 at Washington, D.C.; Sub-Judiciary Committee on Immigration and Naturalization in 1948 at Washington, D.C.; and before President Truman's Commission on Immigration and Naturalization Hearing at Los Angeles in 1952. Y.C. Hong long maintained offices in the heart of Los Angeles New Chinatown. Among his activities, he was past president of the Los Angeles Chinatown Association, Incorporated from 1943 - 1944; legal advisor to the Chinese Benevolent Association of Los Angeles for over twenty years, 1937 - 1957; and chairman of the Chinatown War Finance Committee during World War II. You Chung Hong was always active in his profession and the community as a whole, being one of the charter members of the Immigration and Nationality Lawyers Association as well as the Los Angeles Lawyers Club and Legion Lex of the University of Southern California.
You Chung Hong died suddenly in his beloved Los Angeles Chinatown in November, 1977 at the age of 79. (Courtesy of Jason Jem.)