San Diego City officials recently unveiled Honorary Tom Hom Avenue, a street named after the first person of color elected to the San Diego City Council.
The unveiling ceremony, attended by several hundred people, including San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria and members of the local Chinese community, was held on Saturday in the city’s Chinese Historic District ahead of Hom’s 95th birthday on Tuesday, according to The San Diego Union-Tribune.
The area of Third Avenue between Market Street and Island Avenue is now officially known as Honorary Tom Hom Avenue.
“I woke up this morning and I said to myself, ‘I think I’ll go to Tom Hom Avenue and see what is going on,'” Hom said during his speech in front of the crowd, CBS 8 San Diego reported.
“Everyone that loves what downtown has become, they can thank Tom Hom for being the visionary that really got that ball rolling decades and decades ago,” Gloria declared during the ceremony, according to Fox 5 San Diego. “We all stand on his shoulders, so we as a city have to remember him in his historic contribution to San Diego. That’s why we named Third Avenue in his honor.”
Born to immigrant parents in San Diego on Feb. 15, 1927, Hom, one of 12 siblings, broke racial barriers and became the first person of color elected to the City Council in 1963 at the age of 36. Hom was reportedly the only elected official of Asian or Pacific Islander heritage in the council until the arrival of Gloria and Filipino American Councilmember Chris Cate.
“Think about how much further behind we’d be if Tom wasn’t brave enough to raise his hand and step forward in the early 1960s and say, ‘I insist on having a seat at this table,’” Gloria said. “That bravery, that trailblazing, that courage is why we’re here today.”
Hom lost his mother at a very young age, while his father passed away when Hom was 16 years old. Hom and his siblings ran their father’s business, David Produce Company, which became the largest produce wholesaler in the city before it closed down in 1996, ABC 10News San Diego reported.
After serving in the California State Assembly from 1968 and 1970, Hom started a real estate business in San Diego. In 1982, he became the founding president of the Gaslamp Quarter Association, a nonprofit merchants association that represents “more than 400 businesses located in [sic] within the boundaries of the Gaslamp Quarter.”
Gloria also announced that Feb. 15, 2022 will be marked as “Tom Hom Day” in San Diego.
In a statement, Cate referred to Hom as one of his mentors, adding that he “paved the way for past and future generations of AAPI leaders. His dedication to serving the people of San Diego is unmatched, as is his compelling belief in our city’s potential.”