Yew Char in the legislature, 1926.

Rise of Yew Char to Position In Legislature Like Alger Story

First American of Full Chinese Ancestry To Have Place In Lower House

Was Once Bootblack and Newsboy On the Streets of Honolulu

From newsboy and bootblack, plying his trades in the streets of Honolulu, to member of the house of representatives of the territorial legislature, summarizes the career of Yew Char, local photographer who is the first American citizen of pure Chinese ancestry to be accorded a seat in the law-making body.

Horatio Alger, Jr., prolific writer of boys’ books designed to create a higher type of American citizenship, would have reveled in Yew Char’s life story. He would have visioned in it another “Paul the Peddler” or “Phil the Fiddler;” for Yew Char’s autobiography began with a period of poverty and hard work, and continues today with business success and the honor of serving the public as a lawmaker.

“I desired to carry out in some greater and more responsible manner, my duty as an American citizen.”

Yew Char made the foregoing reply when asked why he had become a candidate for the house of representatives. But even at that he came within an ace of not running. In the beginning, he felt that he could not afford to make…

YEW CHAR
Democratic Representative

…the race. But his friends were urgent. There were a few who said he could not win because he was a Democrat. But he decided to run—and he won.

Proud To Be Bourbon

“I have been told that I am on the wrong side of the political fence,” he says. “I don’t think so. I’m a Democrat and I’m proud of it. And I’m an American, which makes me still prouder. When one is in public service, one should forget his politics in striving for the…

(Star-Bulletin, 11/5/1926, p. 1)

StarBulletin_11_5_1926_1

Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Volume XXXIV, Number 10871, Page 1. November 5, 1926.

…best interest of all the people.”

Yew Char stoutly denies that he was elected solely  by the vote of American citizens of Chinese ancestry.

“I believe that men and women of every race contributed to my victory,” he maintains, “which makes me exceptionally proud of the high honor that has been conferred upon me. It’s absolutely great to know that all of those people have confidence in me.”

Asked what his legislative program would be, Yew Char replied:

Legislation for All

“First of all, to strive to do my duty as an American citizen. Good, progressive legislation equally beneficial to all classes of the people will have my approval.”

Yew Char was born at Niulii, Kohala, Hawaii, January 19, 1893. His father and mother had come to these islands from China as contract laborers on the sugar plantations.Later the family moved to the Kona district, at about the time when the cultivation of coffee and tobacco was being started there.

Earned Own Living

Yew Char began earning his own living when still a youngster. Even as a small boy he labored in the canefields. when the family moved to Honolulu in 1900,he worked in the pineapple canneries, sold newspapers, shined shoes and did odd jobs in order to contribute to the earnings of his parents.

His education was obtained in the public schools and at the night schools of the Y. M. C. A. For a time he was employed by the old James F. Morgan Co., and while there saved up enough moeny to attend the Modern School of Photography at Chicago, from which he was graduated in 1915.

Father Can’t Return

He then returned to Honolulu and established his own photographic business, which he still continues. He has traveled extensively on the mainland, and believes that information gathered during those periods will be of assistance to him in the legislature.

Yew Char is married and has two children—both boys. He declares they will be good Democrats when they grow up.His three brothers are at work here in the islands. His mother is with him, but his father is in China and cannot return because of the exclusion law.

(Star-Bulletin, 11/5/1926, p. 10)

StarBulletin_11_5_1926_10

Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Volume XXXIV, Number 10871, Page 10. November 5, 1926.

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