[R.I.P.] Henry Hwang - Far East Bank Founder / Plus Additional Comments
- Asian American Bank Founder Dies
Henry Hwang, founder of the first Asian American bank (and father of
playwright David Henry Hwang) passed away last Saturday at the age
of 77. His story is the stuff of immigrant fairytales: arrive in the
U.S. with nothing but a few bucks, toil away in a Chinese
laundromat, get a CPA, start a bank, and eventually sell it for 90
million big ones. No wonder he was a big Republican supporter and
Re: My father being a "big Republican supporter and Reagan crony."
He also co-chaired "Republicans for Clinton" in the 90's, and
eventually came to feel that Republicans were generally insensitive
to Asians and other minorities. Towards the end of his life, he
strongly opposed the Presidency of George W. Bush, particularly the
Iraq War. The last Presidential vote of my father's life was for
David Henry Hwang
October 13, 2005
Henry Y. Hwang Dies at 77; Founded Asian-American Bank
By DOUGLAS MARTIN
Henry Y. Hwang, who founded the first Asian-American-owned federally
chartered bank in the continental United States, died Saturday at
his home in San Marino, Calif. He was 77.
The cause was colon cancer, his son, the playwright David Henry
Mr. Hwang (pronounced wong) arrived in the United States at 21,
speaking virtually no English. He later owned a laundry, became a
certified public accountant and began one of the first accounting
firms in Southern California owned by a Chinese immigrant.
In 1974, he opened the Far East National Bank with $1.5 million in
capital and a single office in the Chinatown section of Los Angeles.
The bank was later publicly traded, and its assets exceeded $500
million in 1996, the year before it was bought by Bank Sino-Pac of
Taiwan for about $90 million.
Mr. Hwang became an active investor in China. He was also a leading
Republican Party supporter, and in 1984, President Reagan appointed
him to the White House Advisory Committee on Trade Negotiations.
Henry Yuan Hwang was born in Shanghai on Nov. 28, 1927. At 21, he
left Shanghai just as the Communists were preparing to take over the
city and went to Oregon.
He had already earned a bachelor's degree in political science in
China and earned another at Linfield College in Oregon.
He then studied accounting at the University of Southern California
and operated a laundry business. In 1960, he opened his accounting
firm. California Business magazine said that Mr. Hwang became adept
at building and manipulating personal connections to gain ground in
the Asian immigrant community. He gradually extended this activity
to China itself.
"I don't like Communism," he told the magazine, "but I see a lot of
business opportunities in China."
In 1999, some of these transactions with Chinese banks drew the
attention of American regulators as possible sources of illegal
campaign contributions or funds for Chinese espionage, among other
possibilities. No charges were brought, and no regulatory actions
In 1989, Mr. Hwang was at the center of a major scandal in Los
Angeles when it was disclosed that he had hired Tom Bradley, then
the mayor, as a consultant. Mr. Bradley had also received a loan
from the bank and appeared to have helped it secure $2 million in
deposits of city funds.
Mr. Bradley resigned from the consultancy, returned his $18,000 in
payments and was never charged with wrongdoing.
In 1976, Mr. Hwang told the police he had been abducted, made to
drink a liquid that disoriented him and robbed of $300,000. The
bizarre case was never solved.
In addition to his son, Mr. Hwang is survived by his wife of 50
years, the former Dorothy Huang; his daughters, Margery Anne Hwang
of Rochester, and Grace Elizabeth Hwang of West Hollywood, Calif.;
two brothers; two sisters; and four grandchildren.