Hiram Leung Fong (1906-2004), given name Yau Leong Fong, was the first Asian American U.S. senator and the first Asian American presidential candidate. He was born in Honolulu to Cantonese parents. Fong received a law degree from Harvard in 1935 and opened his own practice in 1938 and entered politics that same year becoming a member of the Hawaii Territorial House of Representatives; he would be speaker of the house from 1948-1954. During his tenure, he was one of the principal leaders fighting for Hawaiian statehood. In 1954 he retired from politics but with the passing of the Admission Act of 1959, reentered the political arena and was re-elected to serve as senator for the fledgling state, a position he held until 1977. In 1964, he ran for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination, making him the first Asian American to run for president.
In 1972, Patsy Mink, the first Asian American woman elected to Congress, would become the first Asian American to seek the presidential nomination of the Democratic Party. In 2016, 52 years after Fong’s candidacy, Piyush “Bobby” Jindal became the second Asian American candidate to seek the Republican Party’s presidential nomination. Today, Andrew Yang is a current Democratic hopeful for the 2020 presidential election.