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[COMMUNITY] Bobby Woo Jr.: 200,000,000th American/Born: Nov. 20, 1967 @ 11:03 AM

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  • madchinaman
    300 millionth American might be immigrant Thirty-nine years ago, an Asian-American baby born in an Atlanta hospital was designated the 200,000,000th American.
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 6, 2006
      300 millionth American might be immigrant
      Thirty-nine years ago, an Asian-American baby born in an Atlanta
      hospital was designated the 200,000,000th American.
      By MARY LOU PICKEL
      The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
      http://www.ajc.com/news/content/news/stories/0217woo.html


      -

      The nation has become more ethnically diverse over the last three
      decades, with minorities making up 33 percent of the population in
      2004, compared with 16 percent in 1970, according to Haub.
      *
      Woo's father, Robert Ken Woo Sr., grew up in Augusta, home to a
      generations-old Chinese-American community founded by laborers who
      widened the Augusta Canal after the Civil War.
      *
      Bobby Woo Jr., with wife Angie and daughters Erin, 6, Caeley, 16
      months, and Megan, 3, at home in Atlanta, became the first Asian and
      Pacific-American partner at King & Spalding law firm. (picture)

      -


      In 1967, the United States was mired in Vietnam, dozens died in race
      riots in Detroit, Thurgood Marshall became the first African-
      American Supreme Court justice and an Atlanta woman named Sally Woo
      had a very special baby at Crawford W. Long Memorial Hospital.

      Woo had no idea just how special her baby was until Life magazine
      told her Robert "Bobby" Ken Woo Jr., born at 11:03 a.m. on Nov. 20,
      was the 200,000,000th American.

      A reporter and photographer at Crawford Long were one of 23 teams
      Life had stationed at hospitals around the country to locate the
      baby that would be born just as the U.S. Census Bureau's population
      clock hit 200 million.

      Later this year, sometime in October, the Census Bureau expects the
      nation's population to reach 300 million living Americans. Late
      Thursday night, the bureau's online population stood at 298,125,094.

      A baby is born in the United States every eight seconds, someone
      dies every 12 seconds and an immigrant arrives every 28 seconds,
      according to the clock. That means the United States gains a person
      every 13 seconds.

      The Census Bureau won't speculate where the 300,000,000th American
      might be born. But demographers say a Hispanic baby or an immigrant
      would be most representative of how the country has changed since
      the 1970 census. Hispanics have the highest growth rate of any group
      in the United States and account for nearly half the annual increase
      in U.S. population, experts say.

      Whites 'disappearing'

      By the time the population reaches 400 million in approximately
      2050, the white non-Hispanic population will be 50.1 percent, said
      Carl Haub, a senior demographer with the Population Reference Bureau
      in Washington. "The so-called majority population is kind of
      disappearing," he said.

      During Bobby Woo's life, Atlanta and the nation have continued to
      follow patterns predicted by Richard Scammon, a former director of
      the U.S. Census Bureau who wrote the 1967 article on the
      200,000,000th American for Life magazine. That issue featured baby
      pictures of Woo and other infants who vied for the title.

      Scammon correctly predicted the nation would continue to bulldoze
      farmland and forests and create suburbs. He predicted that a higher
      percentage of people would attend college; that house sizes would
      increase; and that air conditioning would become the norm. But his
      prediction that we would all be working a 30-hour, four-day workweek
      fell a little short.

      The nation has become more ethnically diverse over the last three
      decades, with minorities making up 33 percent of the population in
      2004, compared with 16 percent in 1970, according to Haub.

      When Bobby Woo was growing up in Tucker, there were only a handful
      of Asian-Americans in the school system. Atlanta had few immigrants
      then. Even Buford Highway, now a thriving immigrant thoroughfare,
      was then a mostly Caucasian, blue-collar community, and a gallon of
      gas cost 16 cents.

      Notoriety inspired success

      Now Woo, 38, who became the first Asian and Pacific-American partner
      at the King & Spalding law firm, has children of his own. The honor
      and notoriety of being the 200,000,000th American inspired him to
      succeed, he said.

      In fact, his life as a fourth-generation Chinese-American embodies
      the multigenerational American success story. And his experience as
      a Southerner epitomizes the idea of today's America as a tossed
      salad of distinct cultures and traditions.

      Woo speaks with a soft drawl and has the manners of a Southern
      gentleman. He grew up eating collard greens, black-eyed peas and hog
      jowls on New Year's Day, thinking it was traditional Chinese fare.
      Sally Woo remembers Bobby's surprise when she took him to the
      supermarket to buy collards and they were sold out.

      "He said, 'I didn't know there were so many Chinese in Atlanta!' "
      his mom recalled with a chuckle.

      "The way we raised our children, it was all mixed," she said. "Part
      Southern and part Chinese. I guess they got a little bit confused."

      Reg Murphy, who went on to become the Atlanta Constitution editor,
      was one of the Life magazine reporters who covered the great baby
      chase and interviewed the Woos the day their son was born. He
      continued to follow the story for the Constitution and visited
      little Woo on his first five birthdays to write about his progress.

      Woo was a typical American suburban kid who rode his bike and played
      baseball, football and soccer. His family's progress in many ways
      mirrors the progress of Chinese immigrants in Augusta and the
      Mississippi Delta, Bobby Woo said.

      Woo's father, Robert Ken Woo Sr., grew up in Augusta, home to a
      generations-old Chinese-American community founded by laborers who
      widened the Augusta Canal after the Civil War.

      Woo's mother left Hong Kong for the United States eight years before
      his birth. Chinese immigrants in Georgia and the Mississippi Delta
      started out by owning grocery stores in minority communities from
      the 1930s through the 1950s, Sally Woo said. The next generation
      became pharmacists and engineers in the 1960s and 1970s.

      Robert Woo's father told him not to study law, saying, "You can't
      get a job as a minority."

      Instead, he studied engineering and later became a certified public
      accountant. Sally Woo earned a chemical engineering degree at
      Georgia Tech. Bobby Woo went to Harvard University and then Harvard
      Law School, where he met classmate and future wife Angie, 35. The
      couple gave their three daughters names with a Celtic ring: Erin, 6;
      Megan, 3; and Caeley, 16 months.

      Angie Woo's maiden name was Mooney, an Irish name for a long-ago
      forebear. That's a departure from Woo's parents, who named their
      children in alphabetical order: Angie, Bobby, Cindy and David.

      Honor almost never came

      Woo almost missed being born American at all. Sally Woo fled the
      Communist Revolution in 1949 and lived in Hong Kong from age 5 to 15
      while her father went abroad searching for a better life for the
      family. He was a teacher in China but worked in a restaurant in
      Brazil for six years.

      "We were planning to go to Brazil. He learned to speak Portuguese
      and everything," Sally Woo said of her father, Way Lam.

      In 1959, after 10 years of waiting for permission to come to the
      United States, and with the help of attorney Carl Sanders, who a few
      years later became governor of Georgia, her father and his family
      were allowed to join his father and three brothers in Augusta. A few
      years later, the immigration bill of 1965 dramatically altered the
      flow of people into the United States, allowing more immigrants from
      Asia and Latin America.

      Bobby Woo has been very involved in Georgia immigration reform. From
      1996 to 2001, he led a coalition of nonprofit organizations lobbying
      the Legislature to treat legal immigrants the same as U.S. citizens.
      One proposal Woo lobbied against would have limited legal immigrants
      to a one-year lifetime cap on welfare benefits vs. a four-year
      lifetime cap for U.S. citizens, Woo said. The Legislature decided to
      make the benefits equal for citizens and legal immigrants in 2001.

      "It really put Georgia up there with other states as a good model
      for the fair treatment of immigrants," Woo said.

      Woo shies away from making any predictions about what to expect when
      the country reaches 400 million.

      He says his fondest hope is that the future brings good things for
      his children. "I hope they are happy in whatever they do," he said.
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