Tang, Thomas, 1922-1995

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Judge Thomas Tang (January 11, 1922-July 18, 1995) was born in Phoenix, Arizona. A third-generation Phoenician, he attended public schools during the day and a Chinese language school by night. His father, Tang Shing, initiated his night schooling to preserve the Cantonese language and Chinese heritage in Arizona. In 1942, Judge Tang enlisted in the Reserve Officer Training Core Program at the University of Santa Clara and was later called to active duty in May of 1943. That same year he enrolled in Officer’s Candidate School and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant after graduation. In the fall of 1944, he reported to the Chinese language school at the University of California Berkley before departing for the Asian Pacific Theater on May 9, 1945 the day after Victory in Europe Day. In the Pacific, Judge Tang assisted in the training of Chinese Army field artillery units and served as an Administrative Officer with the U.S. Army of Engineers in Shanghai. During his time in Shanghai, he met his future wife, Pearl Mao, who was interning at a local hospital.

Following his discharge from active duty in 1946, Judge Tang returned to the University of Santa Clara and earned his bachelor's degree in Economics a year later. He soon enrolled in law school and during that time, Judge Tang married Pearl and unsuccessfully attempted to help her enter a medical school in the United States. In 1950, he obtained his Juris Doctor Degree with High Distinction from the College of Law at the University of Arizona. Following graduation, Judge Tang served as a Law Clerk to Justice Evo DeConcini of the Arizona State Supreme Court from 1950 to 1951 before being recalled to Active Duty during the Korean War.

In June 1951, Judge Tang was assigned to duty in the Allied Translator Interpreter Service where he held numerous military job classifications including Field Artillery Commander, Combat Liaison Officer, and Intelligence Language Officer. His duties included the interpretation of captured documents and the supervision of Chinese Prisoners of War during interrogation. He was honorably discharged in 1953.

Following the Korean Conflict, Judge Tang returned to Phoenix, Arizona. He went onto work as a deputy county prosecutor for Maricopa County from 1953 to 1957 and as an Assistant Attorney General from 1958 to 1960. In 1960, he entered private practice before serving as a Phoenix City Councilman for two terms. Beginning in 1963, Judge Tang served as a Superior Court Judge in Maricopa County for eight years before entering private practice again in 1970 as a partner in the Law Firm Sullivan, Mahoney, and Tang. As a partner, he also served on the Arizona State Board Bar Board of Governors and as President in 1977. That same year, President Jimmy Carter appointed Judge Tang to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit by merit selection. He was the first American of Chinese descent to be appointed to the federal judiciary. In October 1993, Judge Tang was granted Senior Status and served in that capacity until his death in July 1995.

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
employeeOf Arizona. Superior Court (Maricopa County) corporateBody
associatedWith DeConcini, Evo A., 1901- person
employeeOf Phoenix (Ariz.). City Council corporateBody
employeeOf United States. Circuit Court (9th Circuit) corporateBody
alumnusOrAlumnaOf University of Arizona. College of law corporateBody
alumnusOrAlumnaOf University of Santa Clara corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
Phoenix AZ US
Federal judiciary
Asian Americans
Chinese Americans


Birth 1922-01-11

Death 1995-07-18



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