You Chung Hong

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You Chung Hong
Born (1898-05-04)May 4, 1898
San Francisco, California, United States
Died November 1977 (1977-12) (aged 79)
Los Angeles, California
Nationality American
Alma mater USC
Occupation Attorney, Community leader
Known for Development of Los Angeles Chinatown

You Chung Hong (Chinese: 洪耀宗 pinyin: Hóng Yàozōng) (May 4, 1898 – November 1977) was an American attorney and community leader who was the first Chinese American lawyer admitted to practice law in the state of California, having passed the bar examination before he became the first Chinese American graduate of the University of Southern California Law School. You played a major role in the development of Chinatown in Los Angeles, helping rebuild the community after it was relocated to accommodate the construction of Union Station in the 1930s.[1]

Memorial plaque for You Chung Hong in New Chinatown, Los Angeles, 2012

Hong was born on May 4, 1898 in San Francisco, California, his father a Chinese immigrant who had worked constructing railroads. He moved to Los Angeles after graduating from Lowell High School. There he worked as an interpreter for the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service and taught English to recent immigrants as a means to pay for his education.[2] He graduated from the University of Southern California Law School in 1924 with a Bachelor of Laws degree in 1924 and a Master of Laws degree in 1925. He passed the bar on March 26, 1923, not yet having completed law school, making him the first Chinese American in California admitted to practice law in the state.[3]

East Gate in New Chinatown Central Plaza, built in 1938 and designed by Hong, is Historic-Cultural Monument No. 826. West Gate is No. 825.

As an attorney, Hong worked to overturn the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, including testifying before the United States Senate on its effects. Hong became the first Chinese American to be eligible to appear before the Supreme Court of the United States when he was admitted in 1933. An active member of the local Chinese community, he was named president of the local chapter of the Chinese American Citizens Alliance when he was 28 years old.[3]

The construction of Union Station in the 1930s involved the destruction of the city's existing Chinatown, and Hong played a pivotal role in developing its replacement, the first in the United States to be owned exclusively by its Chinese residents, both as an investor and in offering legal guidance. He designed a series of buildings on Gin Ling Way, one of which ultimately housed his legal office, and developed the main entrance gate on Broadway and its neon lighting.[3]

His legal practice, the first in Los Angeles owned by a Chinese American, specialized in immigration law, and Hong became one of the top specialists in the field. Area residents approached him to assist with reunification with family members, such as the family of United States District Court Judge Ronald S.W. Lew.[3]


  1. ^ Los Angeles Chinatown Visitor Map, Chinatown BID, 2006
  2. ^ You Chung Hong, Chinese Historical Society of Southern California. Accessed July 11, 2009.
  3. ^ a b c d Staff. "Chinese American Hero: You Chung Hong", AsianWeek, April 24, 2009. Accessed July 11, 2009.