Edwin Mah Lee, (李孟賢) the mayor of San Francisco, died unexpectedly on 12 December 2017. He was born on 5 May 1952 in Seattle, Washington, the son of Gok Suey Lee and Pansy Chin Lee (Chan Ngar Ching).
[See the many tributes to Edwin Mah Lee on the Internet and in newspapers. The following is a brief summary of some of documents in Chinese Exclusion Act case files for his father, grandfather and great grandfather.]
Lee Gok Suey (Edwin Mah Lee’s father)
In August 1937 Lee Ling Hung swore in an affidavit that he was a citizen of the United States and the holder of Certificate of Identity No. 34552 issued when he entered the Port of Seattle on 9 February 1921. He was applying to bring his son, Lee Gok Suey, into the United States.
Lee Gok Suey arrived in Seattle, Washington on 20 December 1937 on the Princess Marguerite and was admitted four months later after a difficult but successful appeal. He was 17 years old, a student and the son of Lee Ling Hung, a United States citizen and Luey Shee. He was born on 9 May 1921 in Taw Long village, Suey Low Section, Hoy San District, China. Originally Lee Gok Suey was denied admission by a board of special inquiry because he was not able to prove to their satisfaction his relationship to his father.
Seattle’s Inspector-in Charge, Joseph H. Gee, re-opened Lee’s case so additional evidence could be obtained. Affidavits from his father, uncle and grandfather were submitted to the board for their review. The applicant’s attorney filed a letter and an affidavit of the applicant’s alleged grandfather, Lee Share Young, and included a photograph with a satisfactory resemblance to Lee Gok Suey. Because of several discrepancies in the witnesses’ testimony the board voted unanimously that Lee not be admitted. His attorney argued that it had been fifteen years since the grandfather had been to China so it was not unusual that his testimony might not completely agree with his two sons who had been to China recently. After more than four months, Lee Gok Suey’s arrival was approved.
Lee Ling Hung (Lee Gok Suey’s father; Edwin Mah Lee’s grandfather)
Lee Ling Hung first arrived in the United States at Seattle on 21 January 1921 and was admitted as a citizen son of a native. He visited China in 1926 and returned in 1928. During his pre-investigation examination before leaving in 1926 he stated he had one son, Lee Gok Sui, born in 1921. On his return he claimed a second son born while on that trip, Lee Gok Foo. In an application for another trip to China in 1930 he claimed that his second son’s name was Lee Gok Gong and his third son was Lee Gok Foo. Because Lee Ling Hung’s father, Lee Share Young (sometimes spelled Lee Shere Yung)’s citizenship had been granted in 1888 through U. S. District Court discharge papers, Immigrant Inspector Roy M. Porter recommended that Lee Ling Hung’s application for pre-investigation of status be approved. [The confusion over the names of the second and third sons and their dates of birth caused the inspectors to distrust Lee Ling Hung’s testimony and combined with other discrepancies made Lee Gok Suey’s arrival approval so complicated in 1937.]
Before moving to Seattle Lee Ling Hung lived in Portland, Oregon for about six years and he was a baker for Coffman’s Candy Shop at 152 Broadway.
Lee Share Young (Lee Gok Suey’s grandfather; Edwin Mah Lee’s great grandfather)
In March 1938 Lee Share Young (You Yuey, marriage name) testified that he was a bookkeeper at the Quong Tuck Company in Seattle. He was the father of Lee Gim Jeow and Lee Ling Hung and the grandfather of Lee Gok Suey. He was re-examined regarding some of the questions where there was some confusion—were there twelve rows of houses in his village or thirteen? Lee Share Young said, “There are thirteen rows but the first row at the head is not a regular row because there is only a small house and some toilets there.” [It is easy to see how this trivial fact could be confusing.] Lee Share Young’s son sent him a photo of Gok Suey Lee in 1932. The interrogator asked how he could identify his grandson since he had not seen him since he was two years old. He replied, “I have to trust my son who sent me the picture.” There were other discrepancies about the extended family and deceased ancestors, the location of neighbors’ houses in their home village, and the applicant’s school experience. Eventually the board of special inquiry decided that there was enough information where all the witnesses agreed and they admitted Lee Gok Suey. There were over fifty pages of interrogation. The witnesses were asked about the village, the location of roads, paths, hedges, ponds, shrines, the school, cemetery, stores, and many other minor details. They gave detailed descriptions of the houses, buildings and the people who lived in them. [There were over one hundred houses in their village so this could not have been easy.]
In 1920 Lee Share Young swore in an affidavit that he wanted to bring his son Lee Ling Hung over to the United States. At that time he was a merchant for the Quong Sang Wo Kee Company in Portland, Oregon. He produced his 1888 discharge papers for the interrogators inspection.
When Lee Shere [Share] Yung left for a visit to China in 1900 he obtained an affidavit with his photo attached to assure his reentry into the United States. He swore that he was a member of the Wau Yune Lung Kee Company, dealers in Chinese merchandise and provisions doing business at 739 Commercial Street in San Francisco. He had four witnesses: Chas. E. Harris, O. R. Beal, Frank B. Hoyt and Edgar A. Greenblatt. Lee returned on 2 May 1902.
Lee Share Young, Lee Gok Suey’s grandfather, was born in San Francisco, California on 7 December 1871 to Lee Yeu May and Hong Shee. His marriage name was Lee Yeow You and he was sometimes known as Lee Yung. He married Toy Shee and they had two sons, Lee Gim, born 14 February 1889 and Lee Ling Hung, born 28 November 1901. Lee Share Yung’s paternal grandparents were Lee Sing Tem and Lew Shee. He had an older brother, Lee Seah Fook, living in California. The parents of his wife, Toy Shee, were Toy Lem Tick and Low Shee.
The family of Edwin Mah Lee found in the Chinese Exclusion Act case files:
Gok Suey Lee and Pansy Chin Lee (Chan Ngar Ching)
Lee Ling Hung and Luey Shee
Lee Share Young and Toy Shee
G G Grandparents: (Lee Share Young’s parents)
Lee Yeu May and Hong Shee
G G Grandparents: (Toy Shee’s parents)
Toy Lem Tick and Low Shee
G G G Grandparents: (Lee Share Young’s grandparents)
Lee Sing Tem and Lew Shee
The Reference Sheets in the files also contains Seattle file numbers for Lee Gok Suey’s cousin, Lee Gwok Ying (7030/13310); uncle, Lee Gim Jeow (7030/4521); Lee Gwock Ying, Lee Gim Jeow’s son, (7030/13310).
For more information see:
New York Times