The Right Coast

August 28, 2004
Hiram Fong
By Gail Heriot

I love success stories. And Hiram Fong, the first senior Senator from Hawaii, had a great one. His parents were illiterate Chinese immigrants. As a young boy, he did did all manner of odd job, picking beans for 10 cents per 100 lb. bag and shining shoes. Yet he grew up to be one of Hawaii's most successful businessmen and politicians. (He was lucky too; his "seniority" over the junior Senator was won on a coin toss.)

The Republican Fong, who served in the Senate from 1959 to 1977, died last week at the age of 97; his passing was duly noted in several papers, including the New York Times and the Washington Post. But Post's obit contains a stray sentence that I am afraid may mislead some readers. It says, "His support for civil rights legislation put him at odds with many in his party in the 1960s." I'm sure it put him at odds with some Republicans, just as it put him at odds with some Democrats. But, for the record, Republican support for 1960s civil rights legislation tended to be significantly greater than Democratic support. For example, the Senate passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by a final vote of 73 to 27. Of the "no" votes, 21 were Democrats and 6 were Republicans. On the House side, Republicans voted in favor 138 to 34 while Democrats voted for the measure 152 to 96, with most of the "no" votes coming from Southerners.