Scope and Contents
Materials related to the Edward C.M. Chen family in Houston, Texas, including Chinese language instruction materials by Edward T.K. Chen, newspaper columns written by Edward C.M.Chen, and newsclippings and photocopies of images featuring the Chen family and other Chinese Americans in Houston and Texas.
Biographical / Historical
Edward C.M. Chen
Dr. Edward Chen was born and raised in Houston, Texas, a third generation Chinese American. He attended Rice University and later earned a PhD in Chemistry from the University of Houston. He went on to work in the chemical industry, becoming Chief Chemist at Signal Chemical Company.
Edward K. T. Chen (father of Edward C.M. Chen)
Edward K. T. Chen (November 30, 1909-October 16, 1957) was born as Chen Yuk Chow in San Francisco, California. As a government official, diplomat, and educator, he dedicated his life to preserving and promoting Chinese identity and rights in Texas and across the United States.
Chen went to high school in Los Angeles and, upon graduation, attended Columbia University. However, the onset of the Great Depression in 1929 forced Chen to suspend his studies at Columbia. He had already been employed as a reporter for a Chinese newspaper in New York, and, at twenty-one years old, became the managing editor of the Chinese Nationalist Daily. Chen quickly developed a reputation as a formidable newspaperman with superior language skills.
In 1932, the Republic of China established a vice consulate in Texas to oversee the expanding trade between China and the United States. The Vice Consul, T. L. Ouang, appointed Chen as his secretary due to his, Chen's, exceptional language aptitude. Chen moved to the diplomatic offices in Galveston, and then was transferred to Houston in 1933.
On June 17, 1934, Chen married Janie Ng in San Antonio. The couple continued to live in Houston and had two children, Margaret Fay Jane Chen and Edward Chuck Ming Chen. While working in the diplomatic offices, Chen also attended the University of Houston where he earned both a bachelor's and master's degree. He later became the first Chinese-American professor in the city and taught political science at the University of Houston.
Although Chen worked on broad national and international affairs, he was also intimately engaged with local issues, especially in regards to the rights of Chinese-Americans. In 1937, he successfully lobbied against a bill in the state legislature that would prevent Chinese immigrants from owning land in Texas. And, in 1940, he was instrumental in developing the first Chinese church in Houston.
During World War II, Chen publically interpreted the escalating conflicts between China and Japan and served as an official spokesman for the Republic of China, which promoted him to Deputy Consul in 1948. During the post-war and Korean War eras, Chen worked to convince the U.S. government of Chinese-American loyalty, successfully faught against the internment of local Chinese immigrants, presented plans to expose Communist sympathizers, and taught FBI agents to read, write, and speak Cantonese-Chinese dialects in hopes of identifying local Communists. His efforts were immensely fruitful.
As a prominent figure in Houston's Chinese community, Chen was the founder and president of the Houston Lodge of the Chinese American Citizens Alliance, which battled prejudice directed toward Chinese Texans. His efforts resulted in increased numbers of Chinese accepted into various professional programs, such as law, dental, and medical school.