Distinguished Asian Americans: A Biographical Dictionary

By Hyung-Chan Kim; Dorothy Cordova et al. | Go to book overview

BENJAMIN MENOR

(1922–1986)

Judge

Benjamin Menor was born in a split-bamboo house on stilts with a nipa (palm) roof—a humble beginning for a man destined to become one of the first Filipino lawyers in America, and a man who was eventually elected associate justice of the Hawaii State Supreme Court.

Benjamin Menor was born on September 22, 1922, in San Nicolas, Ilocos Norte, in the Philippines. The oldest of seven children, he came from a long line of farmers and sailors. In 1925, after hearing stories of prosperity in America, his father decided to migrate to Hawaii and become one of thousands of sakadas, or contract laborers, on the sugar plantations. The elder Mr. Menor was to go alone and send for his family as soon as possible. It was five years before they saw him again.

Although his father sent money from Hawaii it was barely enough, so his resourceful, Ilocano mother raised Menor and his sister by living off the land. She also took produce to market and was able to barter and trade for their other necessities. Despite their poverty, Menor recounts a closeness of family and relatives as they lived self-sufficiently to fulfill their basic needs.

In 1930 Menor, his mother, and his sister embarked on the long journey to join his father in Hawaii. Menor’s mother had misgivings about leaving home but felt her family should be together. Upon arrival in Hawaii her doubts were magnified by the living conditions on the plantations. She did not mind the barracks-like living quarters as much as the sharing of a community tub for bathing. This, coupled with her homesickness, made life almost unbearable for her. If not for other families who helped the Menors, and the eventual births of five more children, Menor’s mother may never have gotten over leaving the Philippines.

When Mrs. Menor saw how long and hard the laborers had to work, she realized that only an education could make a difference and vowed that none of her children would ever have to work in the cane fields if she could help it. She enrolled Menor and his sisters in the plantation school and instilled in them the desire for learning. Pahoa School consisted then of grades one to nine, and most of the 200 pupils were of Japanese descent. There were only half a dozen Filipino students, be-

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Distinguished Asian Americans: A Biographical Dictionary
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Preface i
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Introduction xiii
  • Kyutaro Abiko 1
  • John Fugue Aiso 15
  • Chang Apana 18
  • Thang Nguyen Barrett 28
  • Benjamin J. Cayetano 37
  • Boona Cheema 52
  • Nna Chen Chennault 55
  • Connie Chung 76
  • Victoria Manalo Draves 89
  • Bobby Enriquez 94
  • March Fong Eu 97
  • Soon Hyun 130
  • Lawson Fusao Inada 134
  • Maxine Hong Kingston 164
  • Michelle Kwan 172
  • Genevieve (Genny) Lim 192
  • John Keun Lim 196
  • Daniel S. C. Liu 200
  • Benjamin Menor 238
  • Patsy Takemoto Mink 246
  • Hiroshi H. Miyamura 252
  • Ronald Tai Young Moon 256
  • Toshio Mori 258
  • Josie Cruz Natori 262
  • Isamu Noguchi 266
  • Soon Tek Oh 270
  • Vincent H. Okamoto 273
  • James Matsumoto Omura 278
  • Safi U. Qureshy 295
  • Robert Santos 310
  • George Shima 316
  • Paull Hobom Shin 318
  • Sichan Siv 322
  • Stanley Sue 328
  • Amy Tan 335
  • Togo William Tanaka 337
  • Chang Lin Tien 339
  • Edison Uno 343
  • Charles B. Wang 345
  • Jade Snow Wong 355
  • Appendix A - Fields of Professional Activity 373
  • Appendix B - Ethnic Subgroups 389
  • Index 395
  • Editors 429
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