Sasha Song Boehling, 36, of Irvine, remembers her grandfather, Alfred Hoyun Song as a playful and loving grandpa who wore flip flops, played golf and enjoyed spicy Korean food.
But at a recent monument dedication at the Metro Wilshire/Western station in Koreatown, she reflected on her grandfather’s public legacy as the man who authored legislation to both create the office of the state public defender and overhaul the California Evidence Code, a guide to rules of evidence admissible in court as the first Asian American sworn to the California State Assembly.
“It’s really neat and validating to be reminded of what he’s known for and what he did outside of our family,” Boehling said, who attended the ceremony hosted by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the office of Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and the Senator Alfred Hoyun Song Commemoration Committee. “I am really proud, thankful and excited.”
Boehling joined more than 90 onlookers, including Song’s family members and community leaders at the unveiling of the Wilshire/Western Alfred Song Station.
At the unveiling, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said he was delighted to memorialize a true trailblazer.
“We are here today to celebrate a public servant who was a visionary and pioneer,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “A man who made an indelible mark, not just within the surrounding Koreatown community but throughout Los Angeles County, the state of California and indeed the entire United States of America.”
In 2013, the 13 member Metro board unanimously passed the motion authored by Metro Board Director Mark Ridley-Thomas to rename the station in honor of Song. Song joins other former elected officials and notable public figures such as the honorable Tom Bradley, Julian Dixon and Rosa Parks who have metro stations in Los Angeles named in their honor.
Born in Hawaii in 1919 on a sugar plantation, Song was the son of plantation workers who had emigrated from Korea. In 1940 he moved to Los Angeles, studied at the University of Southern California and then as the war broke out, attempted to enlist in the Navy. He was initially turned away, however, because he was not white—or as recruiters put it “not part of Naval tradition.” Eventually he was admitted into officer candidate school with the U.S. Army Air Corps with a letter from the U.S. Department of War directing that he be treated like “any other friendly enemy alien.” Despite these setbacks, he went on to become a second lieutenant.
After the war, Song became a lawyer and went on to have a successful practice. Denied the chance to buy a house in the valley due to discriminatory laws, he moved his family to Monterey Park, and it was there that he became active in civic affairs. After being named to the planning commission, he went on to the city council and then in 1962, raising only $6,000 for his campaign, he was elected to the state assembly. Four years later, he was elected to the state senate, where he served three terms.
While his election preceded the movements of ethnic politics, he was active in fighting for minority rights—in particular outlawing harassment of voters at the polls. He authored a bill creating the office of the state public defender and another bill that overhauled the California Evidence Code, a guide to rules of evidence admissible in court. His crowning achievement, however, was the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act which protected consumers from products that were “lemons,” by attempting to beef up warranties and end misleading advertising.
Leslie Song, Alfred Song’s daughter hopes that both Koreans and Korean Americans who visit the station who had no knowledge of her father, will feel proud and inspired.
“I’m really happy about it,” Song said. “A little bit sad. But I know my father has a way of knowing that we are doing this. I hope that young people will think, ‘we can do something good, rise up to the challenge and fight for a better world.’”