Lawrence Kwong

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Lawrence Kwong

Lawrence C. Kwong (born 1886 in northwestern China; died November 15, 1976 in Anniston) was an engineer and former officer in the Republic of China Air Force during World War II.

Kwong was the third generation of his family to be educated in the United States. He studied mining engineering at Lehigh University Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, graduating in 1911. He worked as a civil engineer, building railroads and medical centers, until he was tapped as one of the organizers of the Chinese Air Force in 1933.

Kwong served as an officer during the war, in charge of buildings, equipment and aircraft. He was among the officials who worked with Claire Chennault's 1st American Volunteer Group under Madame Soong Mei-ling to train Chinese aviators in anticipation of the Second Sino-Japanese War. His familiarity with aircraft mechanics and the English language made him invaluable. Birmingham's William McDonald was a part of that unit.

After the Japanese surrender, Kwong worked as an advisor for a Chinese airline in Shanghai. Over the following years he described "brain washing and privation" he experienced from the nascent Chinese Communist Party. He escaped to Hong Kong in 1950, and from there found work on Timor. He later taught English in Formosa (Taiwan) for three years before coming into contact with American military advisor Frank Dupree.

With Dupree's help, Kwong was able to move to the United States under in 1956 as part of the year's refugee quota. He came to Birmingham to live with his son, L. H. Kwong, a pathologist at the University of Alabama School of Medicine and daughter-in-law Sheila.

Kwong found work in Birmingham as a mechanical drawing instructor at Glenn Vocational School in September 1957, and anticipated being able to move into his own house, but resigned in November after a parent complained that she "didn't want a Chinaman teaching her boy". He said that the principal and other faculty wanted him to stay, but that the growing activities of the Ku Klux Klan made him believe he would endanger his family if he continued. U.S. Representative George Huddleston Jr began working with the Alabama Military District to find him another position. He spent some time working at a bus terminal.

Kwong gave numerous presentations to groups such as the Birmingham Aero Club, the Birmingham Anthropological Society, the Birmingham Optimists, the Jefferson County Young Republicans, and the Rotary Club of Birmingham, sharing his insights on Chinese culture and the country's takeover by the Communist Party.

In December 1958 Kwong was walking near his his home on St Charles Avenue during a downpour when he was struck by a car. He was treated at West End Baptist Hospital and the driver was cited for a right-of-way violation.

By 1974 Kwong suffered periodic dizzy spells and was grateful to his neighbors for helping him keep his yard trimmed, for which he repaid them with small gifts. He remained active at his church and Masonic lodge. In accordance with his custom, he did not admit Birmingham Post-Herald reporter Adrienne Welch into his home unescorted by a man, but was happy to give her an interview in the front yard.

In his last years, Kwong resided at Cheaha Acres in Oxford. He died in 1976 at Stringfellow Hospital in Anniston, and is buried at Oxford Memorial Gardens alongside his son and daughter-in-law.


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