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Delbert Wong was the first Chinese American judge in the continental United States.

Early life

Delbert Wong was born in Hanford, Californiamarker on May 17, 1920, and raised a short distance away in Bakersfield. After obtaining an Associate of Arts degree from Bakersfield Collegemarker, he transferred to the University of California, Berkeleymarker, where he received an undergraduate degree in business and was a member of the fraternity Pi Alpha Phi.

After he left U.C. Berkeley, Delbert joined the Army Air Corps during World War II, and became one of eighteen B-17 Flying Fortress navigators that graduated in his class at Mather Fieldmarker in Sacramento. During his service with the military, he was one of only three navigators who completed their thirty bombing missions. For his bravery and dedication, First Lieutenant Delbert Wong was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, as well as four Air Medals.

In 1949, Wong became the first Chinese American graduate of Stanford Law School. After his graduation, Delbert continued to break new ground. He was the first Asian American to be appointed Deputy Legislative Counsel serving the California State Legislature, and the first Asian American to be appointed a Deputy State Attorney General.


During his tenure as a Deputy State Attorney General, Delbert was appointed by then-Governor Pat Brown to the Municipal Court of the Los Angeles Judicial District in 1959, making him the first Chinese American named to the bench in the continental United States. Two years later, Judge Wong was elevated to the Superior Court, where he served for over 20 years. Despite his busy schedule as a Municipal Court Judge, Wong served as Cubmaster of Cub Scout Pack 527 of the Hollywood Wilshire Council of the Boy Scouts of America. One of his Cub Scouts was Lance A. Ito, later to become trial judge in the infamous O. J. Simpson murder case. Ito appointed then retired Judge Wong to serve as a special master to retrieve a switchblade knife from the Simpson residence that had been missed by police detectives. Even after he retired from the bench in 1986, he continued to be involved in his community.

Wong researched and reported on racial issues within the Los Angeles Airport Police Bureau at the request of the Los Angeles Department of Airports; was appointed by then-Mayor of Los Angeles Tom Bradley to serve on a panel tasked with drafting an ethics policy for the City of Los Angeles; and was appointed Chair of the Asian Pacific American Focus Program of the National Conference of Christians and Jews to combat the rise in violence against Asian Americans.

Together with his wife, Dolores, Judge Wong was also an ardent supporter of the Chinese American community, making significant contributions to the Asian Pacific American Legal Center, the Chinatown Service Center and the Asian Pacific American Friends of the Center Theater Group.

Judge Wong died on March 10, 2006, at the age of 85.

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