Who is Stevenson Ching (7/1/2022)

If you are an FFA nerd, you may recognize the name Stevenson Ching. In early May I started writing this Footnote to recognize Stevenson in honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. I also started researching the agricultural and educational aspects of Japanese American Internment Camps. As I worked on these two inspirations for the Friday Footnote, I tentatively decided to write three Footnotes about the Japanese Internment Camps and conclude with this Footnote.

However, the more I wrote about Japanese Internment Camps the more I learned. So, the planned three Japanese Internment Camp Footnotes turned into six. Now, we will finally learn about Stevenson Ching.

But first an announcement! This is the last Friday Footnote until August 5. Some of you have heard me speak at state and national NAAE meetings about the importance of balancing work and family. The goal is to live your life so there will be no regrets. I believe in practicing what I advocate.

I am putting the finishing touches on this Footnote at my daughter’s house in Snoqualmie, Washington. I am spending time with my daughter and her family. Last week I was at the Oregon Agricultural Teachers Association annual conference, so I added on this side trip.

Later in July, I will be at the Georgia and Texas Ag teacher conferences. Since my son is currently living in Georgia but will be headed to Australia (to work on a movie) at the end of July I will get to visit him before he leaves. And since Texas is my home state, I will get a chance to touch base with old friends. Even though I will be speaking and doing some workshops for ag teachers, I consider July to be a vacation month. I would encourage you to take a few weeks from work to recharge your batteries. Connect with your family. Now, on with the Footnote.

Introducing Stevenson Ching

Stevenson was born in 1918 in Hawaii. He was a student at the Waimea School on the big island of Kauai where he was a member of the Hans P. Faye FFA chapter, which was started in 1935, the year Stevenson was a freshman. The agriculture teacher/FFA advisor was Lawrence Capellas, a 1934 graduate of the University of Hawaii.

In 1936 the 37 FFA members marched in the Armistice Day Parade at Kekaha. Stevenson, who was in the parade, was the chapter president (Curators Note: among the other officers marching was the farm watchdog, a precursor to the FFA Sentinel). The FFA members carried sugar cane stalks, farm produce, and chickens and had Waimea Boy, the pure-bred boar in a wheeled cart for the parade (Honolulu Star-Bulletin, November 28, 1936)

At the 1937 Territorial FFA Convention (Hawaii was not yet a state) Stevenson was a triple award winner. He placed 3rd in public speaking, received the Hawaii Planter degree, and was elected President of the Hawaii FFA Association.

Figure 1. Photo of newly elected officers of the Hawaii FFA Association for 1937-38. Stevenson is in the center of the front row.
Photo from the Hawaii Tribune-Herald (Hilo). March 28, 1937.

As president of the Hawaii FFA Association, he was a delegate to the National FFA Convention in 1937. While in the United States the delegates wrote articles for the newspapers back home. The November 18, 1937, Honolulu Star-Bulletin carried a column written by Stevenson about the quality of the livestock, especially the cattle, at the American Royal. He concluded his article by writing, “We have had valuable experiences which will be of aid to us someday in the future. We have seen a great many interesting things. To mention them all would be endless. We also formed friendships with countless Future Farmers of the United States.”

At the Waimea FFA Father and Son Banquet in June of 1938 The Honolulu Star-Bulletin (June 13, 1938) reported, “For work in home projects, leadership and scholastic standing, Stevenson Ching was named the outstanding senior farmer of the chapter.” He was also recognized for the best beef project and was installed as chapter president for the coming year (this was a repeat).

Stevenson returned to the National FFA Convention in 1938 and was selected to be a National FFA officer at the station of the 1st Vice President. (Curator’s Side Note: one of the Hawaiian delegates at the 1938 FFA convention was Frederick Tom, who later became an agricultural education faculty member at Cornell).

Figure 2: Honolulu Star-Bulletin, October 21, 1938.

The trip to the national FFA convention for FFA vice-president Ching in 1939 was somewhat memorable. Seisuke Akamine, one of Hawaii’s delegates, to the 1939 convention penned an article “Future Farmer Group’s Trip is Described” in the October 18, 1939 issue of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin:

Some 600 passengers bade farewell to Hawaii as the ship steamed out of the harbor.

In no time we were out of the harbor and could see the hundreds of homes, fields, and mountains. These soon faded out of sight.

We felt somewhat unstable on the rolling deck. Suddenly five or seven sharks 10 to 12 feet long appeared near a large school of fish. We watched the sharks devour their prey.

September 30 was a gloomy day for Stevenson Ching for he had no extra oomph to climb up to D deck for breakfast. His room steward, however, did well in chasing seasickness away and by noon, Stevenson was all okay.

A strange coincidence occurred that night. Here we were heading for Kansas City and the first movie we attended on board was Dodge City, a story about the pioneers of the city of our destination.

Monday was chilly. Steve worked on his report….

On Wednesday when we opened our sleepy eyes and peered through the portholes at 6;30 a. m. we beheld a tranquil, fog-bound city of Los Angeles…it was a relief to sight land after being on the high seas for five long days.

After spending a day in Los Angeles, the ship sailed to San Francisco where the Hawaiian delegation spent several more days. Stevenson left the group on October 8 to catch the train to Kansas City to get ready for the convention.

The October 23, 1939, Honolulu Star-Bulletin carried an account of the train ride to the convention for the Hawaiian delegation. They reached Kansas City at 7 am on a Saturday morning and “We were welcomed by Stevenson Ching. He had already been accustomed to the cold weather, but for us, the 35-degree morning breeze certainly froze our very bones.”

Figure 3. National FFA Officers for 1938-39. From the 1939 FFA Convention Proceedings

Stevenson after the FFA

After his FFA years, Stevenson continued his ranching operations. He raised horses and even entered some thoroughbred races. Haloku, a three-year-old bay mare won a 5½ furlong race in 1941 at the Kaukia Race Track. At the Doberman Pinscher Club of Hawaii dog show in 1949, an entry (Kuahiwi’s Karlo) by Stevenson placed second.

Figure 4. Honolulu Star-Bulletin, August 31, 1940

In 1946 Stevenson passed a civil service exam to be an egg grader and was appointed as an inspector for the Hawaii Board of Agriculture and Forestry. He worked his way up from inspector to Chief of the Marketing and Economics division and then later to Chief of the Commodities Branch.

After retiring from the Hawaii Department of Agriculture he established S & K Orchids and grew orchids commercially. He died in 2006 at the age of 87. His obituary and memorial marker are shown below.

Figure 5. The Honolulu Advertiser, July 23, 2006

Figure 6. Stevenson’s Grave Marker.
Source: https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/133620146/stevenson-ching

Concluding Remarks

When Stevenson gave his Vice-President’s report at the 1939 FFA Convention he said:

Let us resolve to better our organization, just as the great patriots, pilgrims, and pioneers have built America. We have plenty to do, so let us not shirk. It is well to remember “The world is moved not only by the shoves of the mighty heroes but also by the aggregate of the tiny pushes of each little honest worker.”

The National FFA has announced plans to increase diversity, equality, and inclusion in the organization. This is commendable. The story of Stevenson Ching shows that it can be done. In Stevenson’s own words, “Let us resolve to better our organization…We have plenty to do, so let us not shirk.” Our diversity, equality, and inclusion work starts at the local level with “the tiny pushes of each little honest worker.”

This Footnote ends our extended recognition of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (which started in May).

In August we will continue the Friday Footnotes. Have a good July.